Purchase or Modernize? Army is Dealing with T-72M4CZ Tanks
At the beginning of this week, the Ministry of Defence concluded a contract for the technical evaluation of the T-72M4CZ tank. The company that will carry out the modernization will presumably be VOP CZ, s. p., Šenov u Nového Jičína. The Defence will pay 1.098 billion crowns for 33 tanks, with the proviso that the deliveries will be completed by 2025. Is it a step in the right direction? Let’s take a look at several aspects.
The subject of the public contract is the technical evaluation of 27 pieces of T-72M4CZ battle tanks, 3 pieces of T-72M4CZ command tanks and 3 pieces of VT-72M4CZ rescue tanks. The essence of the technical evaluation will be the replacement of obsolete components of the fire control system within the rearmament of the 7th Mechanized Brigade according to the approved strategic program of the Government of the Czech Republic. Furthermore, compatibility at the level of communication means (voice and data transmissions) will be ensured. This modernization of tanks will extend their life at least until 2030.
It is no secret that these modernized tanks are now essentially non-functional. Only a few of them are really functional, so soldiers also train on the old versions of the M1. In the event of a conflict, the 73rd Tank Battalion from Přáslavice would pull out from warehouses equipment that is almost 50 years old, which would have a very short lifespan on a modern battlefield. The tank lacks any modern elements, not to mention the communication. It has been clear for a long time that it will be necessary to choose either the early purchase of brand new tanks, or repair the most modern tanks that the ACR currently has, i.e. T-72M4CZ tanks.
The option for buying new tanks would certainly be a great choice that would solve the problem of tanks in the oncoming decades, but at the present time, when the acquisition of new infantry fighting vehicles worth tens of billions is expected to be finalized, it is practically a utopia. In short, there are currently no funds for this and probably will not be for a long time, if we take into account the total indebtedness of the state.
However, the army needs functional tanks, which, among other things, it has promised the Alliance to obtain. What was chosen was the second variant in the form of modernization or technical evaluation, as the Ministry of Defence calls the overhaul and new components of fire control. The evaluation of one tank will therefore cost 33.27 million crowns. If we were to purchase new tanks, we are talking about prices (valid in 2017) from 2.5 to 10 million dollars per piece. The price does not include any facilities, in short, it is only a price per piece.
Everything needed for the T-72M4CZ has long been built. What is not entirely in line with current political promises and commitments is the fact that we will continue to use what is essentially Soviet technology. As mentioned above, the evaluation will be valid at least until 2030, i.e. possibly even longer. Whether the army will buy new tanks sooner (The Ministry of Defence originally assumed that the purchase of new tanks for the Czech army would take place between the years 2026 to 2029, in the range of 30 to 40 new tanks for a maximum of 15 billion crowns.), only time will tell. A few days ago, the third meeting of the Czech-American Defence Forum took place. This meeting of American and Czech defence companies with the highest representatives of not only the Ministry of Defence aims to deepen cooperation and map the intersections of interests. It may thus be a harbinger of future purchases.