Will the Airbus A330 become the new reinforcement of the Czech Army?
The Czech Army currently has insufficient air transport capacity. This fact was particularly evident in the recent need for immediate evacuation of people from a dangerous environment in Afghanistan, which we informed our readers about at the time. The pair of existing Airbus A-319CJ transport aircraft have very limited capabilities, and it makes little sense to even talk about the other aircraft available to our military in terms of range and capacity. However, the daily Právo recently reported that the Czech Armed Forces are currently considering the purchase of an aircraft with a capacity of around 200 passengers, with the Airbus A330 transport aircraft being the favourite.
"The experience with the evacuation from the territory of Afghanistan has shown the lack of capacity in the transport air force of the Czech Army. Therefore, it was decided to analyse the availability of a new or flown large aircraft," said Jan Pejšek, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence. He added that the machine should have a range of up to 12,000 km without stopovers and a transport capacity of ideally up to 200 people. The Army does not have such an aircraft at its disposal at the moment, it only has the option of leasing high-capacity transport aircraft under the SALIS system (not for passenger transport, but for cargo transport). The above-mentioned spare capacity system has been used in the past, for example, to transport equipment in foreign missions, as well as to transport medical supplies in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Army of the Czech Republic is well aware of the need for a large-capacity transport aircraft and has therefore carried out an accelerated survey of the market for civilian and military aircraft of the above capacity, i.e. around 200 passengers. According to the Právo daily, the most widely used military turboprop aircraft, the Hercules C-130, was also considered as a suitable machine. In this case, however, the capacity of the aircraft is insufficient, in addition to the demanding service associated with this machine, which would have to be contracted and would probably be outside the Czech Republic.
"As a result of the A330, it was found that, in addition to the order for a new machine, there are several dozen flown machines on the market at the same time," said Jan Pejšek, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense. Airbus A-319CJs are available to our Air Force in two capacity versions, so it is a well-known, proven equipment, for which technicians are also trained. The partial servicing and overall adaptation to the more advanced model of the wide-body Airbus A330 would therefore be easier than with other manufacturers.
Among the other aircraft available to our Army, we can mention the Turbojet L-410, which, due to its range and capacity, is suitable at most for short-range flights. CASA aircraft are similarly situated.
Picture: CASA aircraft are another transport option within the Czech Armed Forces. These have a stated unloaded range of about 5,500 kilometres, but the actual range with a fully loaded aircraft is not even half that. | Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic
The Business CL-601 Challenger, while having good range, has minimal capacity and will soon be retired. The JAK-40 transport aircraft have already been retired.
At present, therefore, it can be said that the long-standing problem of transport capacity within the Czech Army may find a solution. It will certainly not be cheap, a new aircraft costs about five billion crowns and a flown one less than half that, but it is a necessity. The Czech Army may finally have a large-capacity transport aircraft and will no longer have to rely on alternative solutions or the SALIS system, which cannot be counted on when it comes to dealing with literally day-to-day issues. A separate issue will certainly be the possible financing of a new transport aircraft.