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Where? Caslav AFB, Czech Republic
When? 23/05/2009

Time to celebrate! 2008 marked the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Czechoslovak Air Force. And this was the main theme for this year's airshow at at Czech's only remaining fighter airbase Caslav, around 1 driving hour East of Prague. The programm was mainly focused on the country's own aircraft, which was also due to the meager participation of foreign nations.

Of course a lot has changed in the last 90 years, way to much to be mentioned. One major event, the split in a Czech and a Slovak Republic in 1992, only happened very 'recently' and influenced the development of the Air Force very significantly as it led in the long term to the replacement of the MiG-29 Fulcrum by 14 leased Saab JAS-39 Gripen. Nowadays these aircraft are not only reassuring the Czech capabilities to fullfill NATO QRA requirements, but also represent the flagship when it comes to present the Air Force branch of the Armed Force to the public. The signs of the introduction of this modern jet fighter in July 2005 left its sign on the base, and still nowadays construction can be seen all around Caslav AFB.

In the static display of the show it was interesting to see a Swedish and Hungarian Gripen parked in close proximity to one of the host country. But besides these two aircraft unfortunatly only two other foreign jets – a German Phantom and Belgian F-16 – did come to Caslav to wish a Happy Birthday.

perfect blue sky and some nice aircraft

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The remaining part of the static display constisted of two different versions of the Czech L-159 ALCA and a Mil Mi-24 combat helicopter as well as some historic jets that are usually preserved on the base.

static display representing the modern Czech AF history

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some civil visitors and a Gate Guard

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This low foreign participation was also reflected in the flying dipslay, with only two foreign displays: the Swedish Gripen and the Belgian "Hardship Red" formation flying four SIAI Marchetti SF-260, making a nice contrast with their bright yellow aircraft to the blue and white sky. The appearance at Caslav was their public debut and I really hope that we can see more of this team in the future, as it is a also the chance to see a type of aircraft being sent very rarely to foreign shows.

Belgian AF - "Hardship Red" formation

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The rest of the day was filled with aircraft from the Czech Republic performing in the sky. The opening formation was a fly-by of 2 Gripens and 3 ALCAs, followed by parachutists jumping out of a Mi-17.

Gripen QRA take-off & opening formation flight

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Czech AF helicopters & civil L-29

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The Air Force presented also its mature Solo Gripen Display, which was in my eyses more impressive than the one of its Swedish counterpart, as well a Solo Display of an L-159. And then there was also the airfield attack, first performed by two ALCAs and later in the afternoon by two Mi-24, including a lot of pyrotechnics. Mi-24 helicopters performed also a two-ship display that was very nice to watch. During the afternoon two Gripens 'intercepted' furthermore an An-26 and forced it to land at Caslav.

Czech JAS39C Gripen Solo Display

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L-159A ALCA airfield attack

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An-26 interception demonstration

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Mi-24 two-ship display

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ALCA solo display

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And I will not forget to mention the two civil acts in the sky: an Extra 300 aerobatics demonstration and the British Catalina, which did some very nice passes.

the mighty Catalina

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Unfortunatly the flight display had to suffer from several cutbacks shortly before the actual showday. First there was the cancellation of the participation of the Yak-11, which would have given a nice "Czech Heritage Flight" together with the modern jets, as it was originally planned. Technical problems caused also the absence of two Slovak MiG-29 that were planned to be intercepted by the Gripens. Thus the anniversary of the Czechoslovak Air Force turned only in the birthday party of the Czech Armed Forces, which was neverthelss successful, also for the reason that it still represented that certain flair which makes Czech shows very sympathetic again and again.

Swedish AF Gripen Solo Display

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Aero Vodochody L-159 Flight Demonstration

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At the end of the day a touristic visit to the Sedlec Ossuary (kostnice Sedlec), a small Roman Catholic chapel that amongst others has a Chandelier made of bones and skulls, at Kutná Hora completed this very nice day in the Czech Republic.

the Sedlec Ossuary at Kutná Hora

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