Czech Defence Industry in the Coronavirus Age
The main role of the defence industry is to take part in the state defence capability. In the event of an armed conflict, the government can rely only on the domestic producers. Even the coronavirus crisis showed that the following remains true: "If you're looking for a helping hand, you'll find it at the end of your shoulder." Arms factories also make a significant contribution to the state budget, help reduce unemployment and increase the technical and technological standard of our industry. The advantage of the Czech defence industry so far is that a large portion of its production (about 90 %) is exported, which allows the state to maintain sufficient production capacity in this sector without needing to attend to it. That will no longer be true.
Picture: The main role of the defence industry is to take part in the state defence capability. In the event of an armed conflict, the government can rely only on the domestic producers (illustration photo). | CZUB archive
The current times, with all the strict measures taken in almost all countries around the world as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, do not bode well for the future of military technology exports. The government does allow travelling for business or service, under strict rules. However, it is difficult to find the necessary flight connections. And if one happens to be found, there is not much willingness to meet in person on part of the potential foreign customer, despite the often strict or complicated quarantine measures in his/her country. In addition, there are also postponements or complete cancellations of specialized seminars and conferences, industrial forums, business missions, trade fairs and exhibitions for companies in the defence and security industries. So everything that used to help the exports is disappearing. Moreover, there is concern about the reduction or complete invalidation of defence contracts in a number of countries to which we have exported in the past. Thus, a decline in defence technology exports can be expected in the oncoming years, which is a clear signal for the government to act. The production of face masks for medical staff can be ensured by having people sew them at home on their sewing machines in the evenings. The same cannot be done when the soldiers lack ammunition, weapons or necessary equipment. That is why the government must take steps to ensure that the production capacity of domestic arms factories is maintained at the required level. It is not that complicated, all that is needed is common sense and some courage.
The basic equipment of a soldier, comprising of a uniform, a tactical vest, protective helmet, personal weapon and its optical equipment, hand grenades, ammunition, hand-held radio, or field cutlery, all of it can be completely covered by home production. Czech producers should be preferred without remorse as guarantors of supplies in the event of mobilization or a threat to the state. The domestic industry can provide a number of technologies without cooperating with foreign countries. However, there are products difficult to manufacture without international cooperation. In such cases, the government must ensure that the foreign partner allows a high share of our domestic industrial cooperation. It is also a good idea to prefer regional partners. From this point of view, cooperation with the V4+ countries has its undeniable advantages. Especially today, when long-distance air transport is proving to be very unreliable. The state should base the decision on which armament projects to postpone primarily on the share of domestic production in individual projects. There is an urgent need to kick-start the economy and armaments contracts are a good way to achieve this. And if some large projects really need to be postponed due to insufficient financial resources, then they need to be replaced by less costly modernization projects that will ensure the functioning of the defence industry for the future and provide troops with technology to bridge a certain period.
The COVID-19 pandemic can be a great lesson for us. But we must not approach this the same way as is usually the case with floods. As long as the deluges are constantly addressed on TV and in newspapers, the politicians keep going on about promises and the solutions they have. However, as the water ebbs away, so does the interest of media and the political promises end up on the scrap heap of history. If we carry on with this approach, our unpreparedness in the event of another crisis could be tragic for our civilization.