Czechs to study improved Gripen jet offer from Sweden

PRAGUE Mon Dec 3, 2012 11:57pm IST

A pilot climbs out of a Swedish Saab Gripen F fighter jet during a media presentation at the Swiss Army Airbase in Emmen, central Switzerland October 12, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer

A pilot climbs out of a Swedish Saab Gripen F fighter jet during a media presentation at the Swiss Army Airbase in Emmen, central Switzerland October 12, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Buholzer

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PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will study an improved offer from Sweden cutting the price on a long-term lease for Gripen fighter jets, Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra said on Monday.

The Czech government has pushed Sweden to lower the current price once the lease of 14 of the Saab-made (SAABb.ST) jets expires in 2014.

Facing a shrinking army budget, the Czechs said in July they would look for a new provider of fighter jets if a deal with Sweden could not be reached.

"The Swedish side has offered much better terms (than in the summer). The offer is 10 percent better," Vondra told a news conference.

Vondra, who has announced he will resign after losing in October Senate elections, said the new offer stood until the end of the first quarter in 2013.

"We have some time. This time is suitable for us to consider this offer very thoroughly," he said.

Lidove Noviny daily newspaper reported on Monday that the new price for a 10-year extension of the lease was 14 billion crowns ($724.26 million).

The Czechs leased the Gripens in 2004 for 10 years and about 19.6 billion crowns.

The NATO member is seeking to extend the lease by three to 10 years, pending a decision on the long-term future of its air force.

($1 = 19.3302 Czech crowns)

(Reporting by Robert Mueller; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Louise Heavens)