The Czech government has approved a defense ministry plan to acquire two dozen US F-35 fighter jets

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PRAGUE (AP) — The Czech Republic's government on Wednesday approved a Defense Ministry plan to acquire two dozen U.S. F-35 fighter jets in a deal worth around 150 billion Czech koruna ($6.5 billion).

Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that the F-35s “will solve the future of our tactical air forces for dozens of years to come.”

Fiala said the purchase for the Czech military sends “a message to our allies that we take the defense of our country seriously and that they can rely on us.”

The first of the 24 fighter jets should be delivered in 2031, with the rest by 2035, Fiala said. The American aircraft will replace the 14 JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden that are currently used by the Czech army.

The Czechs will pay almost $5 billion to the U.S. for the aircraft, training of pilots, ammunition and other costs, Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said. The remaining money will be used to finance an upgrade of the Caslav air force base in central Czech Republic, fuel and training of staff, Cernochova said.

The chief of the general staff, Lt. Gen. Karel Rehka, said that the new jets would ensure “that in the case of need, we'll manage to effectively defend ourselves against aggression, together with our allies.”

The ministry has been negotiating a deal with the U.S. for about a year amid Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Wednesday's announcement came after the government decided in May to acquire 246 CV90 armored combat vehicles from Sweden as part of a major modernization of the military amid Russia's war.