What all the Ministry of Defence has managed to accomplish under the annual leadership of Minister Černochová
As part of the review of her first year as Minister of Defence, Jana Černochová presented at a press conference yesterday (according to the Ten Points for Defence presented in January this year) everything that the Ministry has managed to achieve under her leadership. The Minister also mentioned that the activities of the Ministry, the demands on the army and security were unprecedentedly affected by the war in Ukraine and thanked her colleagues who contributed to the fulfilment of the objectives of the Ministry of Defence.
Picture: As part of the review of her first year as Minister of Defence, Jana Černochová presented at a press conference yesterday (according to the Ten Points for Defence presented in January this year) everything that the Ministry has managed to achieve under her leadership. | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
At the very beginning of her presentation, the Minister stressed that without a budget there is no army. This year's budget of CZK 89.1 billion amounts to 1.35% of GDP, while the one for 2023 is already at CZK 111.8 billion, which is 1.51% of GDP. The medium-term model of the defence budget is planned so that at the end of the term of this cabinet the required expenditure will reach 2% of GDP, which is also part of the government's programme statement.
Furthermore, the Ministry has prepared a law on the financing of national defence. This law is expected to be on the agenda of the Government in January and will of course be discussed in Parliament afterwards. According to Černochová, the law will ensure stable planning of financing of multiannual strategic projects and at the same time enshrines the state's obligation to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. According to the minister, the ministry is trying to ensure realistic planning and easier acquisitions. This has been achieved, among other things, by amending the Public Procurement Act. Realistic surveys based on current market research are also an important basis for faster purchases. For new acquisitions, a further step forward is to ensure the life cycle of combat assets. In this context, the Minister pointed to the acceleration of the acquisition of military equipment and weapons for the army.
The ministry has several major modernisation projects for the army currently under discussion. Minister Černochová reminded that in October 2023 she will inform the government about the outcome of negotiations with the USA on the possible purchase of F-35 aircraft. She noted that all options for the modernisation of the air force are still in play, but that the defence ministry is trying to negotiate intensively for a purchase from the United States.
Picture: Minister Černochová reminded that in October 2023 she will inform the government about the outcome of negotiations with the US on the possible purchase of F-35 aircraft (pictured). | Lockheed Martin
Another major purchase will be the acquisition of 210 CV90 MkIV tracked infantry fighting vehicles from Sweden. According to the minister, the negotiations are progressing well and the ministry could report on the results within weeks. According to Černochová, while it is not realistic to acquire all the new vehicles by 2026, at least the first units should be in the equipment of the 7th Mechanised Brigade by then. Next year, the army will also receive US H-1 helicopters. The ministry is also trying to speed up the purchase of new and modernisation of the existing Pandur II 8x8 armoured wheeled personnel carriers for the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade. Within the 7th Mechanised Brigade, the delivery of Leopard 2 A4 tanks is underway, with the first of these vehicles being taken over by the unit in Přáslavice for training today.
In addition to the donated tanks, a study is currently being carried out to evaluate the technical specifications related to the future purchase of additional new tanks, which will, among other things, determine the way forward.
Picture: Another major purchase will be the acquisition of 210 CV90 MkIV tracked infantry fighting vehicles (pictured) from Sweden. According to the minister, negotiations are progressing well and the ministry could report on the results within weeks | BAE Systems
According to the Minister, defence cannot do without research, development and innovation. Therefore, she recalled that the Ministry is deepening cooperation between state-owned enterprises and the Czech defence industry and higher education. For example, the Military Research Institute increased its investment in its own research and development infrastructure in 2022 and reached a volume of orders with the Czech defence industry of about CZK 1.5 billion. The Military Institute of Technology then took on 5 internal R&D projects this year to develop and support the latest weapons technologies.
Another important part of the ministry's work, according to Černochová, is cooperation with the Czech defence industry. In this context, the ministry has pushed through an amendment to the Foreign Trade Act that will allow the export of the Czech defence industry through government-to-government contracts. The ministry also regularly negotiates with representatives of the defence industry through the chamber of commerce and always focuses on the involvement of the Czech defence industry in strategic acquisitions so that its involvement is as large as possible, but at the same time realistic and, of course, effective in terms of financial resources. An agreement on the establishment of joint Czech-Ukrainian enterprises was concluded with Ukraine. This cluster will ensure the production of weapons and military equipment, repair and maintenance of weapons and the joint development of modern hi-tech weapons. This year, representatives of the Ministry of Defence also concluded an agreement in the USA which facilitates the entry of Czech defence industry companies into the US market.
Recruitment is an important part of the ministry's priorities, as the army cannot do without soldiers. That is why the Minister introduced the so-called Recruitment for the 21st Century. Unfortunately, since the recruiting targets were reduced in 2021, the recruiting target was increased to a total of 1,800 enlisted soldiers in March 2022. A virtual recruiting center, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2023, is expected to help with maintaining the required recruiting. In addition, the Next Generation Soldier campaign and a scholarship program for high school students was launched, not only targeting professions that the Army has long lacked. The Department has similarly focused intensively this year on restarting the POKOS 2.0 program.
Another priority of the ministry, according to the minister, is foreign cooperation within NATO and the EU. In this respect, a defence treaty, the so-called DCA, is currently under negotiation with the United States, which could be ratified as early as 2023. Other important moments were the documents negotiated during the Czech EU Presidency. These include in particular the training mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM), the European Peace Facility (EPF), the EU Joint Purchasing Programme (EDIRPA) and the implementation of the EU Strategic Compass. Last but not least, the approval of the EU Hybrid Toolbox was important. This will allow Member States to respond to these threats in a joint and coordinated manner. Minister Jana Černochová concluded her presentation with a list of foreign operations in which a total of 21,203 Czech soldiers were deployed this year. It was also mentioned at the press conference that the ministry had reacted in an exceptionally short period of time in connection with the need to strengthen NATO's eastern border, where a new international battle group had been created in Slovakia. In the context of the Czech Armed Forces' foreign participation, Minister Černochová announced that next year the Czech Republic will take command of the MFO observation mission in Sinai.
According to the Minister, our assistance to Ukraine is also important, as it is not only military aid. The Ministry of Defence continues to cooperate intensively with the Czech defence industry and at the same time provides material that can be donated by the Czech Army from its own stocks so as not to jeopardise our own defence capability. The supply of military material by the Ministry of Defence amounted to four and a half billion crowns. The export of Czech military material to Ukraine amounts to more than 47 billion crowns. In 2021, it was 14 billion crowns. Another part of the aid is the training of Ukrainian soldiers. "Here again I would like to assure the citizens of the Czech Republic that everything is being done under the supervision of the Military Police and with some monitoring by the Military Intelligence. There is nothing glitchy going on in this area. It is common for foreign soldiers to train in the Czech Republic," the minister said.
Our editorial office was interested in the development of the previously declared acquisition of Leopard 2 A7 and 2 A7+ tanks, which was considered in May this year, as part of the planned acquisitions. The Minister replied that the selection of new tanks, including the Leopard 2 A7 version, is part of a study in preparation. At the moment, we are preparing a study that evaluates the technical specification and that will also determine the future course of action in building up the tank troops.
Picture: Our editors were interested to know the status of the previously announced acquisition of Leopard 2 A7 tanks (pictured) and 2 A7+ tanks, which were considered in May this year, as part of the planned acquisitions | KMW
Of course, this option (2 A7, editor's note) is offered, but the soldiers and we have to proceed in a completely transparent way, so we cannot actually leave anyone out of the market, which is not very large." According to the minister, this would be an ideal option for the Czech Armed Forces. "At the moment, we are still doing a project study so that we have an overview of the price ranges and what is actually on the market at the moment, because of course, thanks to the war in Ukraine, new players are entering the market. We are not as big as the Republic of Poland to be able to afford to have three or four types of tanks here. But it is certainly worth considering perhaps expanding some of the acquisitions outside Europe to countries that also have something to offer. I am talking specifically about Korea, because Poland has agreed on this purchase," Minister Černochová told CZ DEFENCE.