Soviet equipment in the ACR until 2035?
Despite a number of modernization projects the Army of the Czech Republic still has a lot of Soviet equipment. Some of it has undergone modernization; some of it still awaits it. Can the army fulfil its commitments towards NATO with equipment, which is older than many ACR generals?
The Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic, General Aleš Opata will celebrate his 55th birthday in September. With a bit of exaggeration we can say that he is of similar age as a lot of the equipment the ACR disposes of. The Anti-Aircraft Missile System 2K 12 KUB was being developed in the fifties, and approximately from 1968 to 1970 it was made a part of the armies of the then Eastern Bloc – similar was the situation with the system Strela-10.
There is no point in commenting on the lifespan of radars that was prolonged several times. It is true, that the equipment went through a number of modernizations, though these can only slow down the influence of time. Russian helicopters and UAZ vehicles are right behind, although there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully.
“It is fundamental that we need to disengage from the dependency on the Russian Federation in the area of military equipment and to start ‘westernisation’ of the helicopter aviation,” reported the army press agent, Colonel Magdalena Dvořáková, to Právo, a Czech daily newspaper. She said that the most important point is to replace the helicopters Mi-171 and Mi-24/35, where one of the reasons to be mentioned are the worse and worse supplies of spare parts that the LOM Praha company obtains from Russia based on exceptions, though the supplies sometimes last longer than a year. An official offer to supply new helicopters has already been placed and is a subject of negotiations. It is crucial to solve the radar case. The situation here is quite serious; after all, let’s remind ourselves of how the efforts to modernize these devices have been developing.
Based on the concept of the army constitution by 2025
According to the strategic document of the ACR “Concept of Constitution of the Army of the Czech Republic by 2025” the ability of radar coverage under 3 km should have been extended by means of obtaining 3D mobile new generation radars (MADR) in non-stop operation and interference resistant. In accordance with the original plans of the Ministry of Defence a public tender amounting to CZK 3,500 million should have been launched in the middle of 2015 with the aim to obtain 10 MADR systems, nevertheless in 2016 the Ministry counted on purchase (concluded on inter-governmental level) of 8 MADR systems in total, where 5 radars should have served for the state airspace monitoring, and 3 of them as standby or for air defence.
Picture: Proved radar system ELTA ELM-2084, which has been in the operation deployment within the Israeli air defence system Iron Dome already for ten years, and thanks to the operational experience it has been constantly improved and perfected | IAI
In July 2015 an official request for information was sent to potential suppliers. The intention to tender the contract was shown by the British BAE Systems (with the Commander SL radar), Israeli ELTA (ELM-2084 MMR), Swedish Saab (Giraffe 4A), and French ThalesRaytheonSystems (Ground Master 400). Radar supplies with the required logistic support until 2041 should be performed in 2017–2021. In May 2016 the Ministry of Defence called the Governments of France, Israel, Sweden and Great Britain to place offers to supply 8 MADR radars. Nevertheless Great Britain announced they will not continue to participate in the tender, as the British solution does not completely fulfil the ACR requirements.
According to the media news from the end of November 2016 the Commission of the Ministry of Defence preferred the offer by the Israeli IAI Elta Systems company in cooperation with the Czechoslovak Group. Nevertheless in the end of 2017 the contract was not entered into and the Minister of Defence of that time, Karla Šlechtová, was planning to examine the purchase of the MADR radars. Then the announcement of Karla Šlechtová followed that the ministry inspection found serious faults in some of the unfinished contracts. According to the NATO Security Committee Israeli radars cannot become a part of the NATO air defence system. Nevertheless possible defects or problems with integration in the systems may present one problem, the second problem is the miserable condition of the present equipment.
“The development of the contract lasting many months up to date was accompanied by repeated speculations and doubts. These were not disproved even by the independent commission I established. Therefore I decided to cancel the existing procurement procedure. But our army necessarily needs new mobile radars, without them we will not be able to efficiently monitor the situation in the airspace beyond the Czech Republic. Therefore I proposed the fastest possible process to the Government, i. e. direct purchase of MADR from the Israeli Government,” informed the Minister of Defence, Lubomír Metnar in the end of last year and added: “The anticipated value of the public contract amounts to CZK 2,900 million without VAT. The contract will be signed by the middle of next year. The first radar will become a part of the arsenal of the Army of the Czech Republic 22 months after the signature of the contract,” which is unfortunately not true. The contract on the radar purchase has not yet been signed. Czech companies are able to fully engage in the modernization projects and acquisitions, including the considered substantial part of production realized in the Czech Republic. Has the Ministry of Defence still time?