The views of the members of the Defence Committee are in agreement regarding the acquisition of the CV90 IFV. However, they differ on the acquisition of the F-35
On the eve of the cabinet meeting, Defence Minister Jan Černochová briefed MPs from the Defence Committee and senators from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Committee on the plan to acquire the F-35 Lightning II multi-role supersonic aircraft and the next steps in the selection of the tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The above decisions were welcomed at yesterday's press conference by the new Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, Maj. Gen. Karel Řehka, who recalled the importance of fulfilling the commitment to the Alliance in the form of the modernised 7th Mechanised Brigade of the Czech Armed Forces.
Picture: The Cabinet decided yesterday to cancel the tender for infantry fighting vehicles and subsequently authorised Defence Minister Jana Černochová to start negotiations with the Swedish government for the acquisition of CV90 combat vehicles. The minister was also given a mandate to negotiate with the US Government for the purchase of F-35 Lightning II multi-role supersonic aircraft. | BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin
In this context, we asked the members of the Parliamentary Defence Committee a joint question: On Tuesday, before the Government meeting, the Minister presented you with two materials concerning the future of the supersonic air force and the next steps in the IFV project. What is your opinion on the presented future procedures of the Ministry of Defence?
Below are the reactions of those MPs who responded to us:
Lubomír Metnar (ANO), Chairman of the Committee
We have been informed about the intention of the Ministry of Defence to negotiate a specific type of supersonic aircraft and IFV at the government-to-government level. On Thursday, 21 July, at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference of the ANO movement, which can be watched online, where I will comment in more detail.
Josef Flek (STAN), Vice-Chairman of the Committee
As far as the aircraft are concerned, this will be a year-long and extremely tough negotiation. The Czech Republic will be represented by a team from several ministries (defence, finance, industry and trade), supported by analyses prepared by members of the Czech Armed Forces. Nothing is as black and white as the opposition tries to demagogically suggest. Colleagues from ANO and SPD compare the incomparable. They are deliberately making the public uncomfortable and making us look irresponsible and wasteful. The F-35 is the best available in the defence industry today. And will be for a long time. Nowadays, the only priority is not price, but delivery time. The 5th generation Supersonic is the future of air security. We had to make the acquisition decision now because the later we proceeded, the more expensive the acquisition would be. I agree with what the Secretary of State says that we need to get in line quickly. Nothing is definitive. If we do not come to an agreement, the Gripen is still the fallback option. The Ministry of Defence made the whole decision on the basis of the expertise of experts in the field. Last but not least, I would like to say that I am in favour of creating two squadrons totalling 24 aircraft with at least two strategic airfields and drone support.
With regard to the IFVs, the Minister was basing this on a legal audit. Moreover, two of the three bidders refused to meet the newly set tender conditions. There was no choice but to proceed with the cancellation. The G-to-G (intergovernmental agreement) model could work. For now, however, it is still in the negotiation phase. The upside of this approach is that it would allow us to meet the Alliance's commitment to create a heavy brigade by 2026 on favourable terms, rather than through a cancelled and extremely complicated tender. To the criticism that we will be buying material that is not certified to NATO standards, I note that Sweden, by ratifying its accession to NATO, will have its products certified to the most stringent Alliance parameters. The Swedish side must involve Czech companies in 40% of the contract. I would just add that this procedure is not purely Czech. Slovakia is moving in the same direction, which I see as an advantage: we can fine-tune the notes and proceed with negotiations on the quantity discount and delivery date together. We are deepening our acquisition and defence cooperation.
Pavel Růžička (ANO), Vice-Chairman of the Committee
The Minister has informed us that she is going to submit material to the Government which the Government should approve. In the meantime, it should be able to start negotiations with Lockheed Martin on the delivery of F-35 aircraft. And she also briefed us on the military plan. I think there are a number of ambiguities in it. We don't know the cost, we don't know the cost of the infrastructure and we don't know what needs to be redone. All we know from publicly available sources is that this aircraft is at least twice as expensive as the Gripen. And the operating costs are nearly three times as expensive. Of course, our view on this within the movement is that there is no need to tear down what works well. The Gripen also meets the other condition of being a 5th generation aircraft, as stated by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg. Nowadays, that the aircraft is invisible is also no longer true, because our blockers can detect these aircraft and all the others. Personally, I think that after the negotiations, the purchase of the aircraft will not take place and that the two governments will not come to an agreement. The fundamental problem is the length of delivery of the aircraft. And then another thing, there will be a total of 300 F-35s in Europe. Let's imagine that the machines have a fault and they are grounded. Who will then guard European airspace?
As for the CV90, I don't really care what type of IFV is chosen. What will be important to me is what production will be transferred to the Czech Republic and, more importantly, what percentage will be produced here. So we will see what the Ministry of Defence will be able to match, to negotiate. The important thing is that we simply need to have a heavy brigade combat capable, so any solution at this stage is a good solution.
Jiří Horák ( KDU-ČSL), member of the committee
In the case of the acquisition of US F-35s, I believe that this is a decision based on the recommendation of the army and thus has my support. With regard to the acquisition of BMPs from Sweden, I have long been a supporter of the purchase of strategic military equipment in the form of G2G and I believe that direct negotiations between the Czech and Swedish governments will lead to the rapid and transparent acquisition of combat vehicles. In the opinion of the military experts I have spoken to, the Swedish IFV is an excellent choice.
Petr Liška (STAN), Member of the Committee
What kind of IFVs and supersonic aircraft will be used by the Czech Armed Forces will emerge from direct negotiations between the Czech government and the Swedish government on the acquisition of IFVs and the US government on the purchase of supersonic aircraft. Given the declarations made by the CV90 contractor in the concluded IFV tender, it was expected that CV90 IFVs would be procured. As for the F-35s, whether these aircraft will be procured will be determined by the outcome of the discussions at the level of the Czech and US negotiating teams.
Michal Ratiborský (ANO), Member of the Committee
The IFV will be procured from BAE Systems because it is the only company that has agreed to the new conditions, the purchase will be in the G2G format, where we will negotiate together with the Slovak Republic in order to have a stronger negotiating position. Regarding the aircraft, it was presented yesterday that the decision has not yet been fully taken, but the first step will be to negotiate with the US government on the purchase of F-35 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. However, it was also said that we want a fifth-generation aircraft, and only the F-35 meets that requirement.
Radovan Vích (SPD), Member of the Committee
The invitation to the meeting came from the MoD one day before the scheduled meeting. I consider this method of negotiation on the part of the MoD to be very non-standard. The Chamber of Deputies is there to scrutinise the activities of the Government, not the other way around. It would therefore have been appropriate for us, as Members, to have been presented with this information in a meeting of the Defence Committee, rather than being invited to a meeting at the Ministry of Defence the following day. However, this was not the case. That is why I did not attend that meeting.