The Czech Army is going to exclude Mi-35 helicopters. American machines will replace them. But which ones and when?
The Helicopter Aviation of the Army of the Czech Republic is based in particular on Mi-8MTV „Hip“ and Mi-35 „Hind“ machines. Impressive Russian fighting helicopters, nicknamed as “flying tanks” are able, among others, to transport paratroopers. But they are morally obsolete; their service and maintenance are too expensive. That’s why the Army management has been searching over the years for a universal substitution. And it is surprising that Mi-35 is ploughing the Czech sky till now. The order for new machines for at least of the half of milliard EURO is accompanying by complicated diplomatic negotiations.
Czech pilots, like military fans, will hardly take leave of Mi-35. The silhouette of these machines intimidates, but still attracts. Over 10 years Czech pilots have been training their Afghan colleagues within Air Advisory Team in Kabul. After all, the Czech Republic gave a few of these helicopters to the Afghan National Army. Beside of that, the 221st Air Squadron many times shone in the NATO „Tiger Meet“. Their time, however, is really done now.
When it became clear that the military aviation doesn’t want full-blood fighters, many people believed that BlackHawky would be purchased (surely, not only because the Black Hawk Down is a cult picture for Czech soldiers). The Army management specified daring requirements, including weapons integration – ability to launch guided air-to-surface missiles.
Among specifications there were, for example, ability of fire support of ground units, acting against low-flying targets, transportation of at least eight soldiers with military hardware and armament, fulfilment of missions of SAR and CASEVAC, a big gun or machine-gun as well as rocket equipment, systems of passive and active protection…
The problem is that UH-60M is only being delivered for the US Army, so Sikorski Company may quote just a version of K-70i/K-70M. The former Czech Minister of Defence said a year ago that she was afraid of that modification of new helicopters to satisfy all conceptions can cause additional costs. She at the same time rejected alternatives such as UH-1Y Venom or AW139M.
In the next year, after changing the Minister of Defence, new diplomatic negotiations were held at the level of the highest representatives of the Czech Republic and USA; so now it appears that 12 helicopters could be supplied to the Czech Republic. The Czech Government has asked in the new round for quotation for UH 1Y Venom from Bell and UH-60M Black Hawk from Sikorsky.
US Ambassador submitted these quotations in late June. Together with 12 Back Hawks, he also offered a variant with eight UH-1Y Venom helicopters and four AH-1Z Viper fighters. This variant brings a possibility to ensure both multi-purpose and fighting helicopters.
Thenceforward, however, the Minister of Defence has been facing critique without doing the next step. Some politicians are being aware of that - although it would be an inter-governmental transaction - the helicopters could be overpriced. There is also objection here that domestic companies can lose service and repairs orders from this time forth. While in case of a tender for new infantry fighting vehicles and analogical orders, there is a strong request that the manufacturer has to conclude agreements with Czech armouries, in case of helicopters this request was missing till now.
Supposing that endeavour to conclude contract at the government level (Foreign Military Sale) failed, it is possible that Italian AW139M could be inquired again.