A billion for small arms. Army to speed up rearmament with modern domestically produced weapons
During the 5th meeting of the House Defence Committee, the draft of the now approved state budget, or Chapter 307 of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), was discussed. Compared to the original proposal of the Babiš Government, defence spending was planned to be approximately 5 billion lower, citing the impossibility of paying the first instalment for tracked IFVs, where the further course of action is yet to be decided. At the same time, however, Defence Minister Jana Černochová (ODS) replied to the MPs that the use of such "released" funds for possible other projects was practically impossible due to the set conditions, and that the MoD had identified such a possibility only in the amount of approximately CZK 1 billion. The Government subsequently increased the defence budget by one billion, and these funds will be used by an amendment to the framework agreement for the acquisition of small arms of April 2020 between the MoD and Česká zbrojovka a.s. This will accelerate the rearmament of the Czech Armed Forces soldiers with NATO small arms of uniform calibre from a domestic manufacturer.
The aforementioned amendment of 9 March 2022 increased the limit of the concluded framework agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Česká zbrojovka a.s. by CZK 1.179 billion (excluding VAT). The details have not been disclosed, but according to the press release of the Ministry of Defence, the purpose of the amendment is to acquire mainly additional "CZ BREN 2 assault rifles and CZ P-10 C pistols according to the needs of the Czech Army in the shortest possible time and in the order of thousands of units."
"Česká zbrojovka is a long-standing and proud partner of the Czech Army, so we are ready to prioritize and accelerate deliveries for our army and thus contribute to the Czech Republic's defense capability," said Jan Zajíc, CEO of Česká zbrojovka, in a recent press release. "The modification of the framework agreement will allow us to respond more quickly and better to the immediate needs of the Czech Army caused by the latest developments in the security situation in Eastern Europe," he added.
The original framework contract of 21 April 2020 envisages the purchase of up to 39,000 small arms "as part of the process of equipping troops with the integrated soldier's kit" (MBK V21) for up to CZK 2.853 billion incl. VAT. For the years 2020 to 2025, it envisaged the delivery of CZ BREN 2 assault rifles of 5.56 x 45 mm calibre with 14-inch (up to 12,000 units) and 11-inch (3,832 units) barrels, CZ 805 G1 grenade launchers of 40 x 46 mm calibre (1,646 units), COMPM4 collimator telescopes (15,832 units), 3XMAG-1 additional day telescopes (2 510 pieces), NV-Mag3A additional night telescopes (2 510 pieces), DBAL-A4 multifunctional laser markers/illuminators - dual beam laser designators (2 366 pieces), spare parts, tool kits for armourers, other accessories and, inter alia, the following. 195,000 pieces of 5.56 mm tracer rounds.
In addition, there are 350 CZ BREN 2 rifles in 7.62 x 51 mm NATO calibre (CZ BREN 2 PPS - for precision shooting) with Nightforce ATACR day sight and MilSight night sight, SPIR illuminators and accessories. The original framework contract also provides for 19,280 CZ P-10 C 9 x 19 NATO pistols (up to 1,000 of these pistols with silencer modifications including the same number of silencers), pistol and magazine holsters, tactical flashlights and ammunition. Up to 94 PDW CZ SCORPION EVO 3 A1 submachine guns of 9 x 19 mm calibre with accessories are expected. The above deliveries were then divided by contract into six stages, each year by 30 September at the latest.
The current amendment, which increases the value of the contract by more than a third, will not only accelerate the rearmament of the Czech Armed Forces soldiers to NATO calibre weapons, but at the same time the Ministry of Defence hopes to create conditions for the gradual rearmament of soldiers in the active reserve with modern small arms to replace the Sa 58 assault rifles. The increase in the value of the framework contract with the Czech Armaments Factory comes not long after the information about the introduction of the MK.I bayonet for CZ BREN 2 assault rifles and after the first deliveries of CZ BREN 2 PPS precision-firing rifles, which are replacing the SVD Dragunov and SVDN-3 Tiger self-loading sniper rifles in selected units of the Czech Armed Forces (some of them could thus be included in the material aid that the Czech Republic recently provided to the fighting Ukraine).
Not only opposition MPs, among them former Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar, but also some coalition members of the Defence Committee are talking about the possible use of other framework contracts already concluded and a renewed increase in the defence budget through an amendment to the State Budget Act. "I would like to stress that the number one priority is to complete the tender for Infantry Fighting Vehicles, which the army really needs and there is a general consensus on this. I therefore assume that the budget of the Ministry of Defence will be increased during the year," said, for example, Jiří Horák (KDU-ČSL). Karel Krejza (ODS) can also imagine an increase in the defence budget by "20 billion". Not only in view of the ongoing war in Ukraine, using every available option to strengthen the capabilities of the Czech Army and at the same time the capacities of the domestic defence industry will definitely be a good step.