The government has approved the lease of 14 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden for ten years at a cost of around 20 billion crowns. The leasing contracts will also include offset programmes of Swedish investment into the Czech economy. The fighters will replace the aging Czech fleet of MiG-21 planes, which must be decommissioned by the end of 2004. The government chose the Gripens over a Belgian offer of updated F-16 fighters and similar planes from the Netherlands. Canada offered F/A-18 fighters and the United States offered an older variant of F-16s. Although Sweden is not a NATO member, the British-Swedish maker of the planes says the Gripens are fully compatible with the alliance's air forces.
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