Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the multipurpose helicopters

Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the multipurpose helicopters
Author: Rob Schleiffert, flickr|Caption: Mi-35, Leeuwarden Open Days 2016
11 / 07 / 2018, 11:45

After the IFVs acquisition project the other important one is the purchase of 12 helicopters to replace the ageing Russian Mi-24 models. The project is running since 2015. Twelve multipurpose helicopters would represent the 1st phase. In total the Air Force would acquire 30 to 35 rotorcrafts to replace the currently operated Mi-24, Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters.

In February former Minister of Defence Karla Šlechtová suspended the project, stating that the Czech Army has out a series of requirements which no helicopter currently on the market could match. In June the Chief of General Staff Aleš Opata presented the actual aims and priorities of development and modernization of the Czech Army, including requirements for the multipurpose helicopters.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the IFVs

Currently the Czech Air Force operates 52 helicopters. These are: 17 Mi-35/24Ws and 4 Mi-171Sh's by the 221st Helicopter Squadron and 11 Mi-171Sh's by the 222nd Helicopter Squadron at the 22nd Helicopter Air Base in Náměšť nad Oslavou, and 3 Mi-8s, 5 Mi-17s and 10 W-3As by the 243rd Helicopter Squadron at the 24th Transport Air Base in Prague-Kbely. Plus two Mi-2s, which see their last year of service in Pardubice Flight Training Center.

  • The Mi-24W (NATO reporting name „Hind-E“, original Russian designation Mi-24V) is a later development of the Mi-24 attack helicopter and entered production in 1976, Mi-35 is its export designation. It is a two-engine attack helicopter designed for close air support of ground forces against armoured targets, and for transport of personnel.
  • The Mi-171Sh („Hip-H“ for the Mi-17) is export version of the Mi-171AMTSh variant, which is an armed assault-transport version of the Mi-8AMT and can carry the same range of weapons as the Mi-24.
  • The Mi-8 („Hip“) is a medium multipurpose two-engine helicopter of classic Russian design, and it is one of the most extensively used helicopters all over the world.
  • The W-3A Sokol is another two-engine multipurpose helicopter based on the Mi-2 („Hoplite“). The Czech Air Force operates these since mid-90’s when they were exchanged with Poland for the Czech Mig-29 fighter jets. The Czech helicopters were modified to serve with the emergency medical services.

See also: The Czech Army military equipment overview 2018

The 12 light multi-role helicopters were initially to be delivered at the end of 2017, or at the beginning of 2018. Czech Republic submitted requests to the USA, France and Italy where the largest helicopter manufacturers are based, including Bell Helicopters, Sikorsky, Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland. The contract was supposed to be worth CZK 6–12 billion (USD 270–540 million in actual rates).

Several helicopters were proposed and considered. They were the Airbus H145M, Sikorski UH-60 Black Hawk, Bell UH-1 „Huey“ and the AgustaWestland AW139M.

The tender was put on hold shortly after Karla Šlechtová assumed office in December 2017 in order for the ministry to reassess its needs and revise specifications for its aircraft. She asked the General Staff to rework the list of requirements concerning the multipurpose helicopters, and in April she said: „We will take advantage of an exception clause in the law relating to public tenders by making inquiries directly to two or three potential contractors.“

Mountain Flight 2018, rescue, fast rope by the Czech Mi-171Sh

On 18th June the Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Aleš Opata presented the following requirements:

Purchase of multipurpose helicopters (replacement for the Mi-35/24V) including armaments and ammunition will allow the Air Force to progressively develop its capabilities in the domain of combat support of the ground and special forces in the territory of the Czech Republic and during foreign deployments, and in the domain of air protection of the Czech Republic.

Specifications:

  • Two-engine multipurpose helicopter;
  • Crew: 2 pilots, 2 operators (flight engineer/gunner);
  • 25 to 30 years lifetime;
  • 12 helicopters in total.

1. Requirements concerning the performed roles:

  • Provide fire support for the ground troops;
  • Armed escort for moving troops, escort for transport helicopters;
  • Support for Special Forces operations;
  • Effectiveness against slow-speed and low-altitude air targets;
  • Air search and rescue, combat rescue;
  • CASEVAC;
  • Air transport of personnel and material;
  • Tactical airborne insertions;
  • Cooperation with the Integrated Rescue System.

2. General requirements:

  • Capability of day and night operation;
  • Transport capacity of at least 8 armed and equiped soldiers (ground troops);
  • CASEVAC – at least 2 stretchers in the transport cabine;
  • Total payload for the transport cabine at least 960 kg;
  • Protection of fuel tanks against leakage and explosion caused by combat damage or accident;
  • Wire Strike Protection System.

3. Flight performance:

  • Minimum range 550 km;
  • Minimum cruise speed 260 km/h;
  • Service ceiling at least 4,000 m.

4. Armament:

  • Guns: Cannon or Machine-Gun operated by the pilot and Machine-Gun operated by the gunners;
  • Missiles and Rockets: Air-to-Ground guided missiles (AGMs), unguided rockets and laser-guided rockets;
  • Active and passive protection system.

After the new Minister of Defence, Lubomír Metnar, was introduced to the office on 28th June, the Prime Minister Babiš said: „We must make sure that the ministry makes purchases in a transparent way and that there are no influences by lobbyist groups.“ Minister Metnar sees the completion of the key defence contracts and the purchase transparency as crucial.

See also: Modernization Projects of the Czech Army

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