The area in Vrbětice is ready for grenade production

 07. 02. 2023      category: Events
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There has been talk of returning grenade production to Vrbětice since November last year. The Committee on Defence dealt with this order at the time, originally placed by Česká zbrojovka, now a sister company of Colt CZ Defence Solutions s.r.o. from the Colt CZ Group holding. Representatives of the ministry explained to the MPs why they decided to proceed with the solution without a tender, informed them about the transfer of the production of these grenades to the Czech Republic and about the satisfaction of our army with their use. Subsequently, concerns were raised in the media by the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, who feared that the extraordinary events of 2014 might be repeated. The mayors of the villages concerned reported to the media that they had not been consulted on the matter, despite the promises of the then Prime Ministers and Ministers. The signing of the contract, which will follow the 2017 document concluded following an open tender procedure, is therefore still pending. We therefore took the opportunity to visit the site where these shells would be assembled.

Video: Reportage: The area in Vrbětice is ready for grenade production / CZ DEFENCE

Based on the positive evaluation of the grenades, the Army is requesting to follow up on the original deliveries. In addition, according to the available information, Colt CZ Defence Solutions s.r.o. is the only NATO-certified entity in the Czech Republic that can produce and deliver these grenades at this time. Another important benefit for the Czech Republic and the strategic planning of the Ministry is the transfer of the production of grenades from Rheinmetall to the Czech Republic. The production will thus take place on the premises of the state enterprise VTÚ under the control and according to the documentation of Rheinmetall. The industrial cooperation of the Czech companies will be at the level of 60%. Czech companies such as the state enterprise Explosia a.s., which will supply the explosives, the military state enterprise VTÚ will be responsible for the assembly and control line, and CZ-SKD Solutions will produce the grenade body, packaging and other components.

gran_TITPicture: OffHGr 85 offensive grenade (left) and SplHGr 85 defensive grenade | Rheinmetall Waffe Munition

Petr Vávra, Director of Colt CZ Defence Solutions, a subsidiary of Colt CZ Group, presents the overall progress of the contract so far. And as far as I know, they are more or less almost used up. That's why we are now going through the so-called additional filling. It is up to 500,000 grenades delivered between 2023 and 2027," Vávra adds. The first batch was produced in Austria by Rheinmettal. Subsequently, in 2019, the Ministry of Defence expressed interest in whether it would be possible to transfer the production and thus involve Czech industry, including state-owned enterprises under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence. "The aim is to increase the self-sufficiency of both our Army and the whole country in the event of problems with imports from abroad or in the event of any crisis," said the director of Colt CZ Defence Solutions.

vrbetice_01Picture: The most important criterion is the safety of the entire production and storage. After the events in 2014, the VTR facilities in Vrbětice were modernized and reaccredited and had to meet completely new safety regulations | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

But the most important criterion is the safety of the entire production and storage. After the events in 2014, the facilities of the VTÚ in Vrbětice were modernised and re-authorised and had to comply with completely new safety regulations. The facility was fully licensed and approved by the Mining Authority and the Police of the Czech Republic in 2021. Both bodies carry out both regular and random inspections here. And production has been going on here for 2 years. The Vrbětice site is 360 hectares in size. It is looked after by the Military Forests and Estates of the Czech Republic, s.p. It should be added that only a small part of the whole area is used by the VTÚ. It is a collection of several buildings within this area, which are protected by natural terrain waves that practically exclude any threat to the surrounding villages. The key one is building 22: "This has been fully renovated, has been newly approved and is used for munitions production," says Michal Frejlich, director of VTÚVM's munitions division. Protection is an important component.

vrbetice_02Picture: Building 22 | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

"The entire facility is secured according to legal requirements, which is a perimeter fence two metres high and two rows of barbed wire, including a camera system. Beyond that, there is security, an internal and external camera system, jump and magnetic sensors, motion sensors and many other security features," says Michal Frejlich. The prepared facilities are modernised and secured so as not to endanger production and the immediate surroundings. "We have individual rooms divided into dungeons to avoid any domino transfer of fire and detonation," adds Director Frejlich. "If there were an emergency in the production facility, the range would only be about 170 metres thanks to all these elements. Rheinmetall, which visited the site last year, also praised the safety of the operation and the protection of the facilities. They found it to be one of the best and safest and, in terms of the characteristics of the facilities, one of the most suitable in Central Europe," adds Frejlich. The reconstruction of the VTÚ buildings in Vrbětice cost more than CZK 30 million. Specifically, building 22 cost 20 million. Director Frejlich also confirmed that he has already met with the mayors of the surrounding villages and plans to visit the site in person. According to him, he is also planning a meeting with the Governor of the Zlín Region, Radim Holiš (ANO). A completely new crisis plan has also been drawn up. The firefighters have a detailed overview of the location of the buildings, their availability and the number of staff. There is also a firefighting and emergency plan of the premises, which is stored at the crisis management department of the region.

Although a contract has not yet been signed, some preparatory work is already underway. "Within a fortnight, we will be preparing the first production verification series of the grenade body itself, the production and injection moulding technology of the grenade case, including the process of filling with fragments," says Petr Vávra. After the transfer of production to the Czech Republic, new machines of the production line will be available, which will enable the production of up to ten thousand grenades per month. An important point of production is additional storage. "We expect to produce one production batch. This production batch of ten thousand pieces will be immediately distributed to the warehouses of the Army of the Czech Republic," emphasises Vávra. The individual main parts of the grenade, which is the body and the head of the fuse itself, are packed separately, and therefore no incident can occur during storage. The special feature of this type of grenade is the explosive. "We have developed the explosive together with the state enterprise Explosia and it is called Semtex OLP. This explosive has been used for grenades since 2017 and Rheinmettal has been so satisfied with it in terms of its effectiveness and safety that it has started using it in all grenades produced by the company. It is an explosive that has a high level of safety. This means that it cannot be initiated other than together with the grenade. In layman's terms, it can be thrown into a stove and ignited and burned like paper," reveals Petr Vávra. He, too, confirms the high evaluation of Rheinmetall's representatives. "We brought in experts from Rheinmettal, which has years of experience in the production of both grenades and other ammunition, and they appreciated how the facility is above-standard security and meets even higher standards than our colleagues from Germany or Austria are used to," adds Petr Vávra.

Only state employees work in the premises of the state enterprise VTÚ, so there are no agency or private employees. These are residents from the surrounding villages who have usually worked here all their professional lives. Director Frejlich confirms this: 'Of course, we have long-standing employees here. One colleague has been with us for twenty-two years."

 Author: Jan Zilvar

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