October 15, 2000 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The Czech government on Monday said it would launch a tender by the end of November to select a supplier for either 24 or 36 supersonic multi-purpose aircraft to replace the army's aging fleet of Soviet-supplied MiG-21s.
The tender will total some $2.5 billion and should be complete by the second half of 2001 with the first plane seen delivered by 2004. A new NATO
-member, the Czechs have long planned to buy new or used western-made fighters, but a lack of funds during the post-Communist economic transformation has repeatedly delayed any purchase.
The government will demand the winner provide at least 150 percent of the value of the deal in off-set programs -- where aircraft makers provide contracts for the production of components and other goods to Czech companies. Financing will also be required as part of the bid.
Several aerospace companies have shown strong interest in winning the contract from the Czechs who joined the North Atlantic defense alliance, NATO, last year. Bidders are expected to include the British-Swedish consortium of BAE and SAAB, makers of the Jas-39 Grippen; U.S. firms McDonnell-Douglas/Boeing with F/A-18 Hornets and Lockheed Martin with F-16s, France's Dassault with the Mirage 2000-5 and Germany's DASA representing the Eurofighter consortium.