Gripen crews train over the Czech Republic – exercise Lion Effort 2024

Between 9th and 27th May 2024, the Czech Air Force hosted the multinational live-fly exercise, codenamed Lion Effort 2024. It was already the fifth edition of the training, bringing together the air forces operating JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft, associated in Gripen Users Group (GUG).

The Lion Effort exercise was held for the first time in 2009, in Hungary. Following the initial idea to repeat the GUG training every three years, further iterations of Lion Effort took place in 2012 (Sweden), 2015 (the Czech Republic) and 2018 (Hungary). The 2021 edition was planned to be organized in Sweden, as part of Arctic Challenge Exercise, however, it was cancelled due to covid outbreak.

This year´s edition of the exercise involved approximately 500 military personnel, with about 150 being were the international participants. The Lion Effort 2024 brought together the Gripen crews from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden and Thailand (although the latter, similarly as in 2015, participated in the exercise without their aircraft). Brazil, the newest member of the Gripen family, regrettably cancelled its participation shortly before the opening date, due to flood crisis in the country.

During the live-fly operations of the exercise, the participating Gripen fighters were supported by Aero L-159 ALCA combat aircraft and C-295M airlifters of the Czech Air Force, Eurofighter EF-2000s of the Luftwaffe and F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Polish Air Force, as well as Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft of the NATO MRTT Squadron, operated by the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Additional services were provided by Draken Europe that deployed to the Czech Republic one of its Dassault Falcon 20 electronic warfare aircraft.

The primary location of the multinational forces was the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav, the Czech Republic. In addition, the exercise involved the Air National Command Centre, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) from the 22nd Helicopter Air Force Base in Náměšť, as well as the 25th Air Defence Missile Regiment from Strakonice. Overall tactical control duties were provided by the Czech Control and Reporting Centre.

´This year, Lion Effort is unique in several aspects. First, Swedish Air Force participates as a full-fledged NATO member. Second, it is the exercise’s complexity, because the Czech Air Force integrated exercise Lion Effort and annual exercise Ramstein Guard, which is one of the pinnacle training events for the NATO air power community with specific focus on electronic warfare training and jamming,´ said Colonel Michal Kudyn from the Czech Air Force Command.

The main, live-fly part of the exercise, took place between 14th and 23rd May. The flight operations were divided in two main blocks – Composite Air Operations (COMAO) performed in the morning hours and shadow wave missions in the afternoon.

The COMAO part of the training was focused on complex missions involving a broad range of aircraft and ground forces to achieve the set objectives. The activities conducted during the second part of the day put emphasis on interoperability, advanced air combat and close air support (CAS), as well as air-to-air refuelling.

In addition, the Gripen crews practised operations in electronically contested environment, as part of Ramstein Guard exercise. Jamming of the aircraft radars, communication and GPS was provided by the aforementioned Falcon 20 jet of the Draken company.

That part of the exercise also involved personnel from the Military Technology Faculty of the Czech Defence University, experts in Global Navigation Satellite Systems from the Czech Geospatial and Hydrometeorological Agency, as well as specialists from the 53rd Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare Regiment based in Opava.

´The Gripens are playing the key role in this exercise as they are involved both in the scenarios honing advanced air combat tactics including in jammed environments, and in air-to-ground missions to provide CAS with the use of Litening 4i targeting and surveillance pods,´ added Col. Kudyn.

Comparing to previous Czech edition of the Lion Effort exercise, the current training was entirely focused on military objectives and lacked additional side events that marked the 2015 iteration. Nine years ago, the exercise was combined with celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Gripen service in the Czech Republic and open doors day that was organized at the Čáslav air base.

This year, a spotter day organized at the base on 16th May was the only, to a certain extent, public event related to the exercise. Similarly as in 2015, it attracted several aviation enthusiasts from the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries such as Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Germany.  

The spotter day was a perfectly organized event with many opportunities to take photos of aircraft participating in the exercise. Apart from the Gripen fighters and the L-159 close air support jets which also operated from Čáslav, the air base was visited by two Eurofighter EF-2000s and the A330 MRTT. The air tanker made a low pass over the base runway, followed by a spectacular ´touch-and-go´ manoeuvre performed by the German fighters.

More images from the exercise Lion Effort 2024:


Information from the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces of the Czech Republic press releases, by Captain Hana Havrdová, were used; following the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 CZ license. Source of all quotations – the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces of the Czech Republic