Czech Army modernization priorities - are they set correctly?

Czech Army modernization priorities - are they set correctly?
Author: Rafael|Caption: SPYDER
10 / 05 / 2021, 10:00

The modernization of the Czech Army is a topic that resonates with the whole society. And that means really the whole, not only professional, especially due to the financial demands, implementation within a few years, and also because of the constant suspicion due to past tenders, and not too much transparency. Add to this the very strange changes in current tenders. In the tenders for the modernization of guns and Air Defense, there has recently been a problem that two different suppliers, completely independent of each other, have suddenly increased the final price.

The most discussed is the tender for IFVs, logically, 52 billion is a huge amount and the delay in its implementation with reference to where it is completely unacceptable. NATO countries such as Hungary, Italy, Poland and Germany carry out trade, tests, modernization despite COVID, in the Czech Republic it is an insurmountable thing, what if IFV started to say "cough" with exaggeration. But seriously. The Government has pledged to provide NATO with the modernized 7th Mechanized Brigade, but so far it looks like another great disgrace. There won’t be enough time to buy the IFVs and the tanks will not be modernized because there are no spare parts.

Some projects such as the modernization of artillery with new howitzers and a fire control system or the modernization of air defense were somewhat overshadowed by this acquisition. And it can be said that the last project, ie Air Defense, is crucial from the point of view of the state's defense and security.

See also: The Ministry of Defense has concluded contracts for new equipment. The Army will receive 16 TATRA flatbed vehicles of the T-815 type

In the tenders for the modernization of guns and Air Defense, there has recently been a problem that two different suppliers, completely independent of each other, have suddenly increased the final price. In both cases, these are considerable amounts, but as a percentage of the originally planned acquisition price not so different. Nobody can accuse the French NEXTER and the Israeli Rafael of a cartel. Rather, it is reminiscent of cases known from the domestic scene, such as the sudden rise in prices of the DPET systems or modernization, the technical evaluation of the T-72M4CZ tanks.

Rocket technology and specifically its propulsion units have a number of specifics. Fuels are divided into two types, solid and liquid, and in both cases it is a very sophisticated chemical compound. The advantage of solid fuel is its stability, the disadvantage is the inability to replace it. And then it is cheaper to launch a missile than to buy a new fuselage in addition to the warhead and dispose of the old safely and ecologically. Liquid fuel can be changed, but it is often unstable, highly toxic, or acts as a strong organic solvent. That is why the missile operators (as can be seen in the old Czechoslovak Army images) moved in chemical masks, and therefore, for example, in the USA, only one silo of the TITAN intercontinental missile is available, because the missile was never filled with fuel and used only for training (TITAN Museum in Green Valley).

2K212 KUB systems or in the NATO code SA-6 GAINFUL, also known as the "Three Fingers of Death", have solid fuel missiles. And this system was introduced in the then Czechoslovak Army in 1975. Let's hope that the missiles in the Czech inventory are not the original ones, but as far as some launchers or transporters are concerned, these veterans will probably be of a respectable age of 45 years.

See also: 25th Air Defence Missile Regiment – 2K12 KUB exercise

So why should Air Defense be an absolute priority, if it has lasted so long, it will last for a while. The reason is the location of the Czech Republic and possible threats. In the past, Air Defense was divided into Air Defense and State Air Defense - ie air defense of troops and formations, and then air defense of the state, where anti-aircraft missile systems were located in stationary facilities and were designed primarily to protect strategic facilities and the capital city of Prague. Witnesses will recall objects, for example, near Stará Boleslav (where there was also the State AD command) or Točná (between Zbraslav and Dolní Břežany). Even then, it was anticipated that the first strike on state sovereignty would be directed by aircraft or missiles, not tanks, IFV or artillery. The biggest threat was from the air. We have moved to another period since the Cold War, but the fight against global terrorism once again showed in New York on September 11, 2001, that the greatest threat is once again in the air.

What would cause the greatest damage to the Czech Republic, political, psychological, material and economic would be an attack on the capital city of Prague, Temelín and Dukovany Nuclear Power Plants and then on other administrative and industrial centers such as Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava, etc. But the first three goals are a clear priority . How is the protection set? The 25th Anti-Aircraft Regiment is located in Strakonice and the 21st Tactical Air Force Base in Čáslav. If we take into account the distance or speed of activation, the fighters on JAS-39 can protect Prague, but if the suspicious aircraft behaves inconspicuously well in advance of its own action, ie communicates and keeps the flight path long enough, the timeliness of the intervention can be debated. With all due respect to the pilots - they just won't have time for that. The Strakonice Regiment is within range of the Temelín NPP. So in the end, the whole of Moravia and specifically the Dukovany NPP are without sufficient Air Defense. At the same time, a terrorist with an airplane can fly in from any direction, he/she no longer plays the East x West or North against the South games.

See also: Czech industry will have a significant share in the new SPYDER Air Defense system

Although it was decided after long hardships to modernize the radars and the system is connected within NATO to the NATINADS system, but the aircraft will not be hit by radar. The already selected SPYDER system currently seems to be the only possible solution. It is fully compatible with NATO systems and newly acquired MADR radars. It is established, tested and fully integrated on TATRA vehicles, which are the backbone vehicle in the Czech Army. There is no doubt that systems from other reputable manufacturers such as MBDA or RAYTHEON are of no less quality, and with each of the possible systems you can find something that is better or worse than the others.

As a result, the MoD should clearly and quickly complete the process that has already begun. Minister Metnar's statements that the producers decided and increased the price, according to his statement, did it "just like that" are not credible. The manufacturer must always be able to document what / why / how / how much the agreement has changed, and if he has previously had signals of a major change, he should have communicated it. For both manufacturers, Nexter and Rafael, it is difficult for us to imagine the dictator's approach, who will say "put zero here here, add a limousine for me here and sign here."

The MoD must say clearly and credibly why the price has risen, and if it is really to defend our country, it will go wrong with 45-year-old systems, even worse with systems outside the reach of key centers. A tragedy with systems that do not cover a substantial part of the country, and the acquisition of state-of-the-art system like the SPYDER postponed indefinitely is a mess so far. Perhaps at least the MoD will finish this acquisition before the elections.

Author: Milan Váňa

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