Artillery fire control system will be selected through competition - Minister Metnar revived hopes for transparency of selection and the best price-performance ratio

Artillery fire control system will be selected through competition - Minister Metnar revived hopes for transparency of selection and the best price-performance ratio
16 / 10 / 2020, 10:00

On Monday, in addition to the most generally watched topic, which is inevitably the pandemic and the reaction to it, the government also discussed another long-monitored issue, namely information on the public contract named "Artillery Fire Control System". The contract is closely related to the ongoing acquisition of the 155 mm guns intended for the 13th Artillery Regiment. And it is very good information that Metnar's Ministry of Defense decided to go the way of competition, and did not directly select one long-favored manufacturer. In the competition, which will be organized by the Military Technical Institute, those interested will have the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of their systems transparently and according to clear rules.

It's a very long story. The new and modern artillery fire control system has been talked about for years. First, in June 2017, marketing information was prepared by the Armaments and Acquisitions Section (SVA) of the Ministry of Defense. Then a feasibility study was commissioned, which was prepared by the Military Technical Institute (VTÚ). This study attracted a great deal of attention. In May 2018, the chairwoman of the House Defense Committee, Jana Černochová, interpellated the then Minister of Defense, Karel Šlechtová. The first question was why a feasibility study is commissioned only for the Norwegian ODIN system from Kongsberg (represented in the Czech Republic by the OMNIPOL group).

See also: Fire control system for the Czech Army: we need a comprehensive solution. Polish TOPAZ is the best one

The answer was that ODIN best met the key requirements of artillery, and referred to a marketing study conducted by SVA, according to which the Norwegian system was the best. And the result of the feasibility study was the same in September 2019: the most advantageous is ODIN.

In July this year, the College of Defense Minister discussed the material, which quantified the cost of acquiring the system at CZK 751.851 million excluding VAT, spread over the years 2020-2025. The material referred to the above-mentioned feasibility study, which assessed three systems of producers from Norway (ODIN), Germany (ADLER III) and Denmark (THOR), and stated that it recommended the ODIN system. Nevertheless, the contracting authority, ie the Ministry of Defense, decided to make the final choice of a specific fire control system on the basis of competition between several manufacturers. This competition will be organized by VTÚ according to the parameters set by the MoD.

The armaments and acquisitions section for a long time clearly preferred the Norwegian solution and the way of direct purchase. And despite personnel changes at its head, it had considerable inertia in this matter. ODIN, developed for ARCHER-type cannons, and in the basic variant without costly expansion capable of controlling the firing of only the 155 mm guns, has a number of competitors in Europe. In addition to 152 mm caliber guns (DANA), the Czech artillery also uses 120 mm mortars, and in the future the renewal of rocket launchers decommissioned in 2010 is not excluded, and the new system should certainly be able to control the widest possible range of systems without major investments.

The possibility to compete openly gives the Ministry of Defense the opportunity to view the actual offers of individual potential suppliers and evaluate their quality in comparison with the price. In the ministry's procedure, one can read the strong signature of Minister Metnar, who enforced transparent competition, although SVA suggested not to compete. The "do not compete" variant is non-transparent and can be described as a relic after ex-deputy Říha. He had to leave his post when a case broke out with the increase in the price for VERA NG radars and members of the Defense Committee protested. Like in the case of the fire control system, traces also lead to the Omnipol holding.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the Self-Propelled Artillery

The question is how exactly the parameters of the selection of the new system will be set, and whether the mentioned inertia of the chosen and enforced solution, in certainl circles, will not be reflected. At the moment, however, it seems that Minister Metnar has resisted such pressure, and the choice of the system in the form of a competition will give a chance in this matter to obtain the product with the best price/performance ratio.

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