The crisis in Afghanistan is checking the true state of our military transport capabilities

 19. 08. 2021      category: Army of the Czech Republic
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The crisis in Afghanistan caused by the de facto takeover of power by the radical Taliban movement meant an action unparalleled not only for the Western world - the need for immediate evacuation of people from dangerous environments. E.g. for Afghan co-workers of the Alliance soldiers (translators, etc.), this is a situation where it is literally about hours and rapid transport is often a question of the very survival of co-workers and their families. Virtually people of any profession operating at bases that are now desolate or under Taliban rule are at risk. Thus, the Czech Republic, like other NATO countries, has recently had to react quickly and send immediate assistance to the above-mentioned vulnerable group of people. The immediate evacuation required the deployment of both Airbus A-319CJ military aircraft. However, these capacities are insufficient for the rapid transfer of a larger number of people, and the current situation thus verifies the actual state of our military transport capacities.

airbusPicture: Last night, an army air special A-319CJ landed in Kbely, Prague, and evacuated 62 passengers from Kabul, Afghanistan, to the Czech Republic. Prior to that, it transported 133 people to the Czech Republic in two flights. | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The interior of the Airbus A-319CJ army transport aircraft can be modified into two variants. For the VIP variant, the capacity of the aircraft is 42 seats, in the Economy variant, the plane can carry up to 98 people. With the number of 98 passengers, the range is 6,480 km, with the transport of 42 people, the range is 8,660 km. The conversion between the two versions mentioned above can be done by the technical staff within 24 hours. Altogether, the aircraft are able to carry up to 196 people, but they are not able to transport equipment or land anywhere but at airports with a solid runway. Another transport variant are the CASA aircraft. Although they have the stated range without a load of about 5,500 kilometers, the real range with a fully loaded aircraft is not even half.

01_4650Picture: Another transport variant are the CASA aircraft. Although they have the stated range without a load of about 5,500 kilometers, the real range with a fully loaded aircraft is not even half. | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

In practice, therefore, a flight to Kabul would mean two stopovers for refueling. There remains a business jet, the CL-601 Challenger, which has a good range but minimal capacity and will soon be decommissioned. This by the way means the Czech Republic loses a business jet, which could be used for negotiations around the world. The question therefore arises as to whether the Czech Republic has a sufficient military transport solution in the event of an emergency.

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Picture: CL-601 Challenger, it has a good range, but minimal capacity and will soon be taken out of service | Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic

The Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) or the Multinational Multi-Role Tanker Transport Fleet (IMF) Alliance projects, of which the Czech Republic is a member, then serves only for long-term planned high-capacity transport. In the event of a crisis and the associated immediate deployment, the above projects cannot be counted on.

Therefore, if a scenario arose where it would be necessary to transport Czech citizens, citizens of the Alliance or the EU states from anywhere in the world, for example due to earthquakes, other natural disasters, coups, etc. our Army, or the Czech Republic, does not have any aircraft with the possibility of rapid operational deployment, sufficient range and transport capacity of equipment or a larger number of people.

The crisis in Afghanistan has thus clearly shown the Czech Republic what its weakness is in military transport technology and that long-term underestimation of the defense budget, including non-compliance with military contracts, can have fatal consequences for our citizens and allies. Our Army would need a strategic transport aircraft of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or Airbus A400M type, but in Concept of the build-up of the Czech Army 2030 this type of transport aircraft is not planned.

 Author: Martin Šiška