Czech modernised tanks and other systems are and will be helping Ukraine in its fight against Russia
Last week, we had the opportunity to visit the Excalibur Army plant in Šternberg, where a presentation of part of the current portfolio of military equipment that the Czech company produces or is modernizing was held, including equipment that is already or in the near future will be sent to the Ukrainian army in the fight against Russian aggression.
Video: Report – Czech modernized tanks and other systems help and will help Ukraine in its fight against Russia / CZ DEFENCE
Thus, we had the opportunity to see, for example. The modernization carried out by the Šternberg company provides the tank crew with, for example, higher protection in the form of installation of reactive armour (ERA – Explosive Reactive Armour), a new communication system (from MESIT), the tank has better ergonomics of vehicle control (new digital dashboard) or more sophisticated equipment for not only night vision (anti-laser eye protection, the driver has a thermal vision with optical elements allowing tenfold zoom and the gunner has a night vision with the same optical parameters) and as part of the modernization, the engine power was also increased from 780 hp to 840. 11 of these tanks have already been shipped to Ukraine (Excalibur Army has delivered a total of 27 tanks to Ukraine since the beginning of the year), where today 9 units (1 unit was reportedly destroyed and 1 unit was captured in September) of these tanks are successfully fighting. A total of 90 T-72EA tanks (+ an option for another 30 tanks) are then agreed for production for Ukraine, to be jointly financed by the United States and the Netherlands. The T-72 tanks to be upgraded to T-72EA come from the mobilization stocks of the former Warsaw Pact countries (these are non-functional T-72 units in the base, T-72M and T-72M1), with one unit of these tanks being completed every 4 days to the upgraded T-72EA version.
Picture: Modernized T-72EA tank, 155mm MORANA howitzer in the background | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
The original tanks are completely disassembled, inspected, selected parts are replaced, a complete engine overhaul takes place, and new modernization components are delivered (optics, wiring harnesses, reactive armor, etc.). The next batch of US and Dutch funded upgrades will then go to Ukraine this week.
Picture: The original tanks are completely disassembled, inspected, selected parts are replaced, the engine is completely overhauled, and new modernization components (optics, cable harnesses, reactive armor, etc.) are delivered | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
A further 18 units are planned to be delivered to Ukraine by the end of the year. The adaptation of the Ukrainians to the upgraded tank then usually takes one week, after which the crew goes to the front to fight. During our visit, in addition to a static demonstration of the T-72EA, we also had the opportunity to ride in this tank.
Picture: Modernized T-72EA tank | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Within the framework of artillery systems we saw the latest production achievement in the form of 155mm self-propelled howitzer MORANA with a barrel length of 52 calibre. This howitzer was presented to the public for the first time at this year's Eurosatory fair in Paris, where it aroused great interest. The system is still being worked on, with various life tests, modifications to some of the components, etc. still in progress, so MORANA is not currently intended for deployment. MORANA is fully automated, where the crew can operate the howitzer without leaving the safety of the armoured cabin. The stored 155 mm calibre ammunition is also ballistically protected. The advantage of the protected crew lies in the fact that nowadays enemy artillery radar is able to intercept a howitzer shell and count where it was fired from in the first phase of its flight path, and then enemy assets open fire on the howitzer. MORANA is able to fire the 1st round within 35 seconds after the vehicle has stopped, and then 35 seconds after the last round has been fired the howitzer is able to leave the site.
Picture: MORANA 155mm self-propelled howitzer | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
The Šternberg company also produces 155mm DITA howitzers with a barrel length of 45 calibre. This howitzer, unlike the MORANA, is a fully tested finished product and Ukraine has expressed interest in this howitzer. Its production is thus already underway. The DITA howitzer is conceptually based on the proven DANA howitzer (engine at the rear, cab at the front).
For the sake of completeness, let us also mention the 152 mm DANA M2 howitzer, which is currently operating on the Ukrainian battlefield alongside the classic unmodernised DANA howitzers of the 77 model (7 pieces). In addition, 12 more DANA M2 howitzers are currently in production for the Ukrainian army.
The presentation also included the MR-2 anti-aircraft system against low-flying targets, which Excalibur Army will soon start sending to Ukraine, where the system is expected to fight mainly against Iranian-supplied Shahid-136 (Geran-2) unmanned systems. The MR-2 system comprises a mobile air-launcher with two 14.5 mm ZU-2 anti-aircraft machine guns on the platform of the proven Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series vehicle.
Picture: MR-2 anti-aircraft system against low-flying targets | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: The MR-2 system is expected to fight in Ukraine mainly against the Shahid-136 (Geran-2) unmanned systems supplied by Iran to Russia | Michal Pivoňka / CZ DEFENCE
Excalibur Army has already delivered a total of about 120 pieces of equipment to Ukraine, both the above mentioned and, for example, RM-70 Vampire rocket launchers. The Czech company has been helping Ukraine basically since the beginning of the war. In addition to armies, the company's products are used by rescue and security forces. Excalibur Army produces armoured vehicles (Patriot I and II, Triton , Pandur II, etc.), tanks (T-72, T-72EA), artillery systems (DANA M2, DITA, MORANA, Vampire) and engineer equipment (e.g. AM-70 EX). In addition to production, the company also carries out servicing and repairs of equipment.
Currently, Excalibur Army employs a total of 600 people in its 4 branches. 99% of the business is exported abroad. Due to the increased demand, the company is constantly increasing its production capacity, therefore it is also increasing the number of its employees (since the beginning of the year the company has recruited 100 people) and also intends to expand its production facilities, which are currently facing their limits due to the extreme demand. Currently, production is at capacity until the end of 2023.