New tanks for the Czech Army. Does it really need them?

 03. 09. 2019      category: Army of the Czech Republic
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The service life of the tanks of the Czech Army will expire in 2025.  In June of this year, Minister of Defence Lubomír Metnar (ANO) informed the Government on an order for modernization and technical evaluation of the T-72M4CZ tanks. The state enterprise VOP CZ ought to replace armoured car’s systems and components, which are obsolete or non-repairable or haven’t been already manufactured, for about 908 million CZK without VAT. “The Fire Control Systems and radio stations are ranked among the most important systems,” said Petr Sýkora from the Press Department of the Ministry of Defence. As he said, the contract would be concluded till the end of this year, and modernization of the tanks is planned to be proceed in the period of 2020 to 2023. MoD assumed to purchase new tanks for the Czech Army in a range of 30 - 40 new tanks for at the most of 15 milliard CZK in the period of 2026 to 2029. The question is: Does the Czech Army need tanks at all? And can mere 30 or 40 tanks affect situation in case of their combat deployment? 

Picture: The Czech T-72M4 main battle tank | Wikimedia Commons

The former Czechoslovak People's Army disposed of hundreds of tanks. Together with T-72, it also had older Soviets models. In the ‘90s, the new Czech Government ordered modernization of 353 pieces. About hundred tanks were lightly reconstructed to T-72 M1CZ and have been saving in stores till now. Just 30 pieces were modernized to T-72 M4CZ, what makes them comparable with the 3rd generation tanks.

These 30 tanks were included in the 73rd Tank Battalion, which is part of the 7th Mechanized Brigade. Spare parts were missing. Therefore, parts of one tank were often mounted to another one. This procedure is wide-spread in the Czech Army; and soldiers call it cannibalization. Nowadays just ten T-72 M4CZ tanks included in the 1st Tank Company are drivable, while the 2nd and 3rd Tank Companies and also the Active Reserve Forces Company were equipped with worse T-72 M1CZ tanks. 

Picture: Nowadays just ten T-72 M4CZ tanks are drivable | Wikimedia Commons

The Czech Army recently, in connection with medial critique of the selection of new infantry fighting vehicles, began more actively communicate in social networks about its own needs. It is a campaign of “We are army, and we know what we want”. Regarding the necessity of purchasing new tanks, Commander of Tank Battalion Vít Ducháček said: “It is a steel fist of our army, so we are being deployed to intrude and destroy the strongest enemy.“ 

This “steel fist” has ten tanks usable on a present-day battlefield. MoD disclosed that it had wanted to purchase new tanks, but not more than 40 pieces.

But let’s go to ask the basic question: Does the Czech Army need tanks? Could 30 or 40 tanks affect situation in case of combat deployment? Former Minister of Defence (2006-2007) Jiří Šedivý commented the theme so: “There are two possibilities: Either to have a little bit of anything, or at least something, but really good. The priority is the 7th Brigade, howitzers, transport helicopters, maintenance of interoperability of C2, specialization, preparedness across the all, cybernetic resistance, etc. We don’t need tanks, we are not in the first line. No money will remain for the new tanks, and modernization of the remaining ones will be folly - let’s learn from the Ukrainian case.“

This is a wide-shared opinion. Most of experts say that the army of so small country should be focused on specific skills and reach excellence in them. It is a case of the Czech military chemists, doctors or aviation controllers. In spite of it, many politicians and military officers dream of an interservice army.

Picture: Former Minister of Defence (2010-2012) Alexandr Vondra declared that – for example – it could be a good idea to buy new infantry fighting vehicles from the Germans (it means Puma) and to make them deliver - as a bonus - Leopard 2 tanks (in the picture, there is the German Leopard 2A7 main battle tank) | Wikimedia Commons

Other former Minister of Defence (2010-2012) Alexandr Vondra declared that – for example – it could be a good idea to buy new infantry fighting vehicles from the Germans (it means Puma) and to make them deliver - as a bonus - Leopard 2 tanks It, however, confirms that purchasing expensively just a couple of tanks simply there to had tanks in the Czech Republic, is pure profligacy.

 Author: Patrik Beran

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