Tatra Defence Vehicle in Kopřivnice invests in its production capacity
It is not only with the Russian attack on Ukraine that there is a change in thinking in Europe. The long-underestimated building of the capabilities of the armed forces of most European Alliance member states is taking a new course, with states signing up to their commitments and increasing their defence budgets. In addition, a struggling Ukraine is consuming large quantities of equipment, weapons and ammunition provided in support of Western states, and these must logically be replenished in depots. The defence industry, as one of the pillars of defence capability, is thus gaining new opportunities and investing in the expansion of its capacities, which until now have been in line with the situation and the very slow pace of armaments and rearmament. An example is the Tatra Defence Vehicle (TDV) company in Kopřivnice, one of the suppliers of heavy equipment to the Czech Army.
Tatra Defence Vehicle belongs to the Czechoslovak Group and cooperates closely with the traditional truck manufacturer Tatra Trucks. As the name implies, TDV focuses its projects on the armed forces. Among them, we can find the licensed production of Pandur II 8x8 wheeled armoured vehicles in the first place, and we can recall the recently successfully completed delivery of command and staff and communications vehicles of this type. Pandurs are not only produced for the Czech Armed Forces, for example, together with Excalibur Army, they are currently fulfilling an order for the Indonesian armed forces.
Another major TDV project in the field of wheeled armoured vehicles is the TITUS (Tactical Infantry Transport and Utility System) 6x6 vehicle developed together with the French company Nexter and built on a Czech chassis from Tatra Trucks. The order for 62 units was placed in June 2019 (a total of 36 communications vehicles, 6 command and staff vehicles, and 20 fire support coordination vehicles intended for the 13th Artillery Regiment).
In addition to Pandurs II and TITUS, TDV also produces armoured cabs for various types of Tatra military vehicles (and not only Czech ones – for example, a large order for the Belgian army is currently underway). It develops and manufactures special hardened bodies for all Tatra chassis, an example being the STARKOM electronic warfare and jamming vehicle project for the Czech Armed Forces. It is also involved in repairs and modernisation of heavy wheeled and tracked equipment, as well as servicing off-road vehicles on Toyota chassis. TDV will also be involved in the supply of Caesar 8x8 self-propelled guns for the Army, for which it will produce armoured cabs, the second major project being developed in cooperation with the French company Nexter and Excalibur Army.
The Czech Army, and specifically the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, will be facing two major projects involving Pandur II vehicles in the near future, according to Ministry of Defence and Army officials. Firstly, there will be the production of dozens of new Pandur IIs in various versions for the 4th Brigade, which will end a certain standstill forced by the reduction in the number of Pandurs ordered as a result of the economic crisis in 2008-2009. The second major project should be the mid-life upgrade of existing Pandur IIs. In particular, there is talk of replacing their weapon stations. The two projects would be linked in the sense that the new Pandurs would naturally be built to a new standard, to which the vehicles already in use would then be upgraded.
Those who had the opportunity to see Tatra Defence Vehicle's operations must have wondered whether the company was already running at the limit of its production capacity, given the facilities available to it. TDV employs around 200 people and the current TITUS project alone will increase this number to 250 – most of the vehicles are due to be delivered in 2023. The Army, through its representatives, is already talking about a second phase of the TITUS project for the years 2025-2027 (there is talk of three to four dozen vehicles that the army needs in order to finally get rid of outdated and inadequate platforms).
The answer to the above capacity question is the planned significant investment of TDV in a new production hall in the order of tens of millions of crowns. The new hall is due to be completed in 2024, and will increase TDV's production capacity, with meeting domestic demand and supplying the Czech Armed Forces always a priority. Quite naturally, there is also a parallel interest in being able to offer the developed and manufactured equipment to foreign customers.