Big report from this year's NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days
This year's 23rd NATO Days in Ostrava & 14th Air Force Days of the Czech Army attracted approximately 185,000 visitors. The main theme of the event was modernisation. An important part of the largest show of its kind in our country were, as usual, foreign guests. There were equipment and demonstrations from a total of 19 countries, including the Czech Republic. Visitors could see about 90 aircraft and about a thousand pieces of ground equipment. There were also dynamic demonstrations not only of the Army of the Czech Republic, but also of units of the Integrated Rescue System or security forces. Parachute jumps by paratroopers of the 43rd Airborne Regiment of the Czech Armed Forces and the Polish special unit AGAT were a highlight of the event. Poland was the partner country of the event this year, presenting a large amount of combat equipment, including Himars rocket launcher, K2 PL tank, Rosomak armoured vehicles, etc.
Video: Big report from this year's NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days / CZ DEFENCE
A large number of Memoranda of Understanding, framework cooperation agreements and other documents were also signed between large foreign companies and representatives of the Czech arms industry at this year's NATO Days. "Of course, we are pleased that these memoranda have been signed here for many years, because it proves that this event is important not only for visitors, but also for the professional public," Zbyněk Pavlačík, chairman of the organizing association Jagello 2000, told CZ DEFENCE. Among the agreements concluded, let us mention, for example, the Memorandum of Understanding between the American F-35 aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the state enterprise LOM PRAHA. As the director of LOM PRAHA Jiří Protiva told us, the conclusion of this memorandum gives a signal for the future and shows the interest of both parties to find other possibilities of industrial cooperation in the Czech Republic. These are mainly training, repair and service," said Jiří Protiva.
Another important document was the conclusion of several contracts between Czech suppliers and BAE Systems, which is also going to further expand cooperation with its existing partner, the state-owned enterprise VOP CZ, regarding the production of CV90 vehicles for Ukraine.
NATO Days are mainly dedicated to the celebration of the air force, so helicopters and aircraft from different countries took turns over the heads of visitors on both days. For example, the American-made AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, which were purchased by the Czech Army, were on display, while their predecessor, the Mi-24/35 attack helicopter, made its debut at the event. Pilots of our army as well as pilots of foreign armies demonstrated their skills in JAS-39 Gripen C, A400M Atlas, L-39 NG, L 410 NG, Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16 and other machines. A big attraction was the five F-35 Lightning II aircraft of the US and British armies, the possible purchase of which should be decided by the Czech government in early October after more than a year of negotiations.
The NATO Days in Ostrava were also attended by representatives of the Czech government, headed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Defence Minister Jana Černochová and Interior Minister Vít Rakušan. Prime Minister Fiala said at the press conference that this event shows what the Czech defence industry, which is very strong and strategically important for our country, can do. "I appreciate the fact that many arms companies are coming up with innovative solutions and technologies and that our arms companies are investing in research and development, developing new products. This is also very important for our future prosperity. It is also crucial for our ability to compete on international markets and it is important for our economy, because thanks to the success of the Czech defence industry, new jobs are being created and, of course, revenues for our budget are also increasing," the Prime Minister said in his speech. As proof of this claim, he cited the fact that the 12 largest Czech arms companies paid 232 percent more in income tax last year, which is roughly CZK 1.5 billion. Minister Jana Černochová pointed to the enactment of the 2 percent of GDP for defence spending, saying that the move makes up for the debt the Czech state's military has with the Czech state from the past. "We are not adding to the army, we are giving to the army what it should have had years ago and unfortunately did not have thanks to the fact that it always fell victim to some budget cuts," said the minister, who also pointed to the modernisation processes in the Czech Army in the form of the acquisition of CV90 tracked BVP, H-1 helicopters, Leopard tanks and, of course, the upcoming government decision on the acquisition of 5th generation F-35 Lighting II aircraft.
The event was also traditionally attended by representatives of Czech and foreign arms companies, such as BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Bell, Saab, KNDS, CSG, Colt CZ Group, AERO Vodochody, ERA, SVOS and others. Within the portfolio of products of companies belonging to the Czechoslovak Group (CSG) and Tatra Trucks holding, the exhibited products were introduced by the spokesman of the holding Andrej Čírtek. These included, for example, the 3rd generation of the Tatra Force vehicle, the TITUS 6x6 armoured vehicle and the Czech comprehensive anti-drone solution ReCas.
Andrej Čírtek also revealed what technologies CSG is focusing on today and what are the future visions of the holding. Currently, it is mainly the development of own products, such as artillery, ammunition for it, ammunition for small arms and, of course, the holding continues to focus on vehicles. In the future, then, new breakthrough technologies will gradually be implemented within CSG products. In the case of artificial intelligence, for example, the first use will be in-house in the form of the development and implementation of a production management system within the largest Czech aircraft repair facility, JOB AIR Technic.
The Czech market is still a key player for the traditional supplier of firearms to the Czech Army, Česká zbrojovka or Colt CZ Group, which has been growing in recent years mainly thanks to acquisitions of foreign companies. "We are a long-term supplier and a long-term partner of the Czech Army. We supply our complete range of products for the armed forces, whether it is BREN 2 assault rifles, P10 pistols or the Škorpion Evo 3 submachine gun," said Jan Zajíc, chairman of the board of directors of the subsidiary Česká zbrojovka. Proof of the holding's continuous growth is, for example, the recent purchase of the Swiss holding swissAA, which sells premium ammunition under the name Saltech.
Another Czech company, Ray Service, has recently focused on completing its industrial cooperation concept with major foreign partners such as Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and KNDS. According to director Jakub Gabriel, it will supply these companies with electronic systems, vacuum fire extinguishing systems, taxiway belt systems, jammers and camouflage, which is a great reference for the company. At the NATO Days, we also had the opportunity to see the VISK educational truck. "It goes around primary and secondary schools and its task is to educate children in technical fields and technical topics and then prepare them to further choose technical topics for their studies," Jakub Gabriel told CZ DEFENCE.
At the NATO Days, the company SVOS from Přelouč presented the combat vehicle MARS 4x4 (Multi-role ARmored System) with integrated anti-aircraft system RBS 70 NG, which is the result of Czech-Swedish cooperation. "It is our latest 4x4-based platform with an integrated RBS 70 weapon system," Štěpán Černý, the company's sales director, told CZ DEFENCE.
The course of this year's NATO Days and Air Force Days was also appreciated by the Commander of the Air Force of the Czech Republic, Major General Petr Čepelka. "One of the steps that the Army is currently undergoing is certainly a large and intensive modernisation not only of the Air Force, but of the entire Army of the Czech Republic. This is of course connected with industrial cooperation and signing of contracts. If we want to be successful, we need to develop technology. In the Czech Republic, we need to support our defence industry and we are trying to do this as best we can," General Čepelka told our editorial team. And what will be the government's decision on the purchase of 5th generation aircraft for the Czech Air Force? "I have already mentioned several times that I would be very happy if the government would respect the military recommendation, support it and approve the project of acquiring the fifth-generation aircraft. I firmly believe that this will happen," Major General Čepelka added.