The Czech Army is going to establish a Drone Battalion in January 2020, although selection of drones isn’t planned to begin until at least three years later

 22. 10. 2019      category: Army of the Czech Republic

The supreme representative of the Czech Republic, the President Miloš Zeman, in the past repeatedly spoke of drones and of necessity to integrate them into our army. The Army should establish a drone battalion from January of the next year and integrate in this battalion existing equipment, which the Czech Army disposes of, but it is also going to look round for unmanned systems which will be able to bear weapon systems.

The President Miloš Zeman has been speaking of necessity to acquire drones for a long time. He repeated it last Tuesday on a meeting of the command of the army with top politicians on the occasion of celebration of 100 years of existence of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic. According to him, practice round the world clearly showed a high usability of unmanned aerial vehicles. “Therefore I’m glad and appreciate that a drone battalion will be established,” said Zeman. President of the Senate Jaroslav Kubera called himself as a supporter of drones as well. “The reason of it is that drones protect human forces,” said Kubera to journalists.

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Picture: ScanEagle unmanned reconnaissance aircraft in Afghanistan | army.cz

The Army nowadays disposes of ScanEagle drones and uses them for reconnaissance of landscape within the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. This drone weighs just over twenty kilograms and brings no weapon systems, only optoelectronic surveillance elements. The second aerial vehicle is the two-kilogram Raven RQ-11B, which is also designed for reconnaissance. State Enterprise VTÚ also has drones in its production schedule, but there can be no question of integration of them in the needs of the Czech Army (excepting unmanned air targets). Brus (which is a name of the tricopter manufactured by VTU), is able to be in air up to one hour, due to which it is possible to use it to a limited extend especially for security services, firemen and so on.

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Picture: RAVEN RQ-11B light unmanned aircraft for air reconnaissance | army.cz

If the Army is serious about drones, then, for example, the older but widely applied General Atomics MQ-1 Predator drones with a basic price over 4 million USD might be considered as a suitable solution, or MQ-9 Reaper with a price over 17 million USD.  Probably, there is no sense to speak about the Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk drone in connection with the acquisition for the Czech Army, because unit price of such aircraft exceeds 220 million USD. Within the current big investments, which are planned by now, such as acquisition of new IFV’s for 53 milliard CZK, helicopters for 12 milliard CZK (not to mention consequential ammunition) and other equipment (first of all, MADR radars, renovation of missile air-defence equipment, etc.), the intention to establish a drone regiment is a little sidelined and it is not clear whether it will be realized at all.

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Picture: The General Atomics MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft is able to bear two AGM-114 Hellfire guided missiles | Wikimedia Commons

In any case, let’s not force the issue. Chief of the General Staff, General of Army Aleš Opata, was more cautious in his speech speaking about the intention to acquire drones. “Nowadays it is not a theme for public discussion, because we are in a phase of preparation of this military unit, as well as of planning and other issues related to it. At the present time preparation of this project is in progress, and it should begin in 2022/2023,“ said General Opata.

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Picture: Thanks to its laser marking, the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper multi-purpose unmanned aircraft might be armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. | Wikimedia Commons

If we remember all kinds of market researches or tenders converted to a market research, probably it would last a lot of years until our soldiery gets any new drone. If ever. Since the program, thus a research, is to be initiated in 2022 – 2023, General Opata will not participate in it, and the entire issue will be in responsibility of his successor.

 Author: Martin Čížek