Radka Konderlová: The defence industry has become an indispensable pillar of our own security

 19. 02. 2024      category: CZ DIALOGUES
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The need to modernise the Czech Army brings with it many opportunities for the Czech defence industry, which participates in various ways in arms procurement (CV90 IFV, F-35 aircraft, etc.). Its pro-export orientation also enables it to find opportunities on new markets abroad. Another potential for development is the creation of supplies and means for national defence. The importance of Czech companies and their capabilities in the defence industry has also increased in the context of the war in Ukraine, which has shown how invaluable self-sufficiency is. On the basis of the above, we have invited Radka Konderlová, Chief Director of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, to the next episode of CZ DIALOGUES, whose task is, among other things, to link the Czech defence industry with the modernisation processes of the army. 

Video: Interview with Radka Konderlová, Chief Director of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic / CZ DEFENCE

The key priorities of the Industrial Cooperation Section are the development of the domestic defence industry and ensuring the defence capability of the state in crisis situations, support for exports and Czech interests on foreign markets, as well as deepening partnerships through cross-border cooperation of defence industry companies. The section is also tasked with building partnerships in the defence and defence industry, and the share of Czech companies in arms contracts shows our potential. Recent examples include Meopta and its supplies to BAE Systems or PBS Velká Bíteš and the well-developed concept of cooperation with Lockheed Martin.

The efforts to support the Czech defence industry are not only in the area of the Alliance member states, the Industrial Cooperation Section is taking full advantage of the current demand and is looking for new markets, for example in Africa. "The African continent is a very important territory for the Czech defence industry for one practical reason. We have great historical ties there from the past. A significant part of the continent has old Soviet equipment, which our defence industry companies can repair and modernise very well, and there are already quite good partnerships established there from the past. The Czech defence industry has a lot to build on there," says the Director General. Africa as a continent is of course also in the sights of big countries such as China and Russia. The size of the Czech Republic allows a greater focus on specific supplies and projects. "I think one big plus for the Czech defence industry or for Czech companies is that we are a country that does not have a colonial past in Africa. We don't go there with any side agenda. We are not pursuing any side political or foreign interests with these deals," explains Radka Konderlová. That is why, according to the CEO, African countries see us as an equal business partner who wants to help the country improve its security and stability. An example of such cooperation is currently Angola. On the other hand, Egypt, for example, is a challenge and potential for the Czech defence industry. "This country is in a huge geopolitical melting pot, but at the same time it is absolutely crucial in terms of security in the Middle East and in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza. That is why the Ministry of Defence is active in this part of Africa, for example by participating in EDEX, one of the main defence technology fairs of the North African part. 

As far as Egypt is concerned, the situation is complex. Radka Konderlová points out that Egypt's major partner is the United States, while the Russian Federation is omnipresent there. Moreover, she believes that the country's orientation is now focused on managing the conflict in the Gaza Strip or the Middle East. "If our industry wants to make inroads in Egypt, it has to take into account that the country is not doing well economically. Therefore, there will be a need to invest in building production capacity in Egypt and there will be a need for financial capital. My second observation was that if Egypt is interested in a technology that we have, it will find it on its own," said the Chief Director of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. 

The Czech defence industry is clearly pro-export, it is also supported by the "trade fair diplomacy" of the Ministry of Defence and other ministries, and there is international interest in Czech products and companies that are at the world technological cutting edge. "Last year I also visited the Paris Air Show, where we had a joint participation with the Ministry of Industry and Trade and we supported the Czech aerospace industry. We have companies in the Czech Republic that are at the cutting edge of technology in the world. If I take PBS Velká Bíteš as one example, it is one of four or five companies in the world that can produce auxiliary propulsion units for the aerospace industry. The Czech Republic is one of eight or nine manufacturers in the world that can and has the capacity and capability to produce its own aircraft. For a country the size of the Czech Republic, this is something that is unparalleled in the world," says the Chief Executive, adding that the aerospace industry and its supply chains are a key part of any country's defence capability. In our context, this is the case, for example, with airplanes or drones. "In addition, another segment is ground equipment, where Czech products have a long tradition. At the same time, I cannot fail to mention passive surveillance systems. It is a technological unique. ERA, a company that can produce passive systems, is a company into which the state has historically poured a huge amount of money, which has been returned several times over," says Konderlová.

Foto: V souvislosti s ukrajinským konfliktem se stále častěji hovoří o nutnosti rozvíjet schopnosti evropského, potažmo i českého zbrojního průmyslu, a navýšit jeho produkci. (ilustrační foto) | Shutterstock
Picture: The key priorities of the Industrial Cooperation Section are the development of the domestic defence industry and ensuring the state's defence capability in crisis situations, supporting exports and Czech interests on foreign markets. | Shutterstock

The Agency for Intergovernmental Defence Cooperation (AMOS), established for this purpose, is an important facilitator in intergovernmental negotiations on industrial cooperation and has a key presence in government-to-government negotiations. "As far as the Czech Republic's support for the supply of military equipment to Ukraine is concerned, it is absolutely crucial and it is doing a consistently amazing job there," Konderlová emphasises, adding that praise for the agency's work also comes from abroad.

Another tool is to support not only defence industry companies, but also academic institutions and companies that have dual technologies in their portfolio - and their involvement in European programmes. "Here I can mention, for example, the European Defence Fund and we also have new alliance initiatives, the DIANA Alliance Defence Accelerator to support start-ups that produce dual-use technologies. Or we have the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF), which is completely unique, where the Alliance has given funds to create a so-called joint venture capital fund, which it oversees," explains Chief Executive Konderl. The fund is managed by a private company and companies that are in this Alliance accelerator can be financially supported by the NATO Innovation Fund.

"Of course, in connection with the modernisation projects of the Army of the Czech Republic, it is our task to involve Czech companies in the so-called industrial cooperation programmes," Radka Konderlová calculates the possibilities for Czech companies to apply. Support for software solutions is also a separate chapter. According to the current parameters, these fall into the area of dual technologies.

Foto: V tomto díle našeho diskusního pořadu CZ DIALOGY jsme si popovídali s vrchní ředitelkou Sekce průmyslové spolupráce Ministerstva obrany České republiky Radkou Konderlovou | Jan Juřica / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: In this episode of our discussion show CZ DIALOGY, we talked with Radka Konderlova, Chief Director of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic | Jan Juřica / CZ DEFENCE

The war in Ukraine has fundamentally changed the view of the security environment and the role of the defence and security industry, not only in our country but worldwide. "The defence industry has become an indispensable pillar of our own security. The defence strategy approved by the government last year says so. The capacities and capabilities of our industry are also proving crucial as we assist Ukraine with important supplies of military material and equipment for its defence. So this is such a sad way for our businesses to grow. But it has become a real opportunity to show what we can offer. Our assistance to Ukraine therefore strengthens the position of our defence and security companies and also confirms their quality and reliability," Radka Konderlová says in the interview.

The need to help Ukraine's defence has always been one of the primary reasons for current international activities, be it at the EU or Alliance level, which aim to increase the production of military equipment. "You have probably heard about the so-called ASA regulation of the European Union to increase production capacity in the field of munitions production or EDIRPA, which was negotiated during our presidency. The aim of that regulation is to strengthen the European defence industry through the joint acquisition of defence equipment. And now the European Union is coming up with a whole strategy for the European defence industry," Radka Konderlová, Chief Director of the Industrial Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, said on the CZ DIALOGY programme. If you want to learn more, listen to the full interview at the beginning of this article.

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