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

Fire control system for the Czech Army: we need a comprehensive solution. Polish TOPAZ is the best one
18 / 03 / 2020, 15:30

In addition to re-arming the artillery with new weapons, namely the 155 mm NATO caliber self-propelled howitzers, self-propelled mortars and, in the future, the restoration of rocket troops, the Czech Army needs a new Artillery Fire Control System. The variety of weaponry, weapon types and calibers defines the essential requirements of the new system: compatibility and ability to communicate reliably with all components. Inspiration and possible solutions are best found in Poland, whose army has similarly varied armaments as (will have) the Army of the Czech Republic.

The Army of the Czech Republic plans to acquire an Artillery Fire Control System. The complexity of the system must be taken into account, since it is not just artillery, but all systems, including the main battle tanks and IFVs. In their case, it is direct fire, while in the artillery it is both direct and indirect fire.

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Which means in short: I see the target and fire at it (direct fire), or I have information about the target, whether from airplanes or drones, and then I am able to fire at places where I do not have direct line of sight. Howitzers, mortars and rocket launchers have this ability. The Army of the Czech Republic currently does not operate rocket launchers, but plans to buy them again and plans a major rearmament of its artillery regiment. Of course, this will also affect Active Reserve, and when talking about mortars, these resources are included in other units, including special forces.

Structurally, the superior system of command and control of the Army of the Czech Republic should coordinate all fire systems of the land forces and be able to coordinate them with the air forces. In this context, it is referred to as vertical coordination, internal coordination within the chain of command itself. The system, however, must also be able to ensure the so-called horizontal coordination, which means synergy with neighboring Alliance troops and forces.

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The acquisition of a new fire control system provokes long discussions. The armament section of the Ministry of Defence has for some time preferred the Norwegian ODIN system from Kongsberg. The problem with this system is that it lacks complex capabilities. It was created to control only the 155mm caliber howitzers. Although the manufacturer says that he has experience with the implementation of other systems, it means that it is necessary to buy these functionalities. Which makes the system more expensive.

Another of the systems deployed within NATO is the German ADLER. His problem in the context of reflections on the new system for the Czech Army, according to experts, is that it is not compatible with the current artillery fire control system used by the military. US AFATDS is also certified in operations. But the Americans themselves are planning to renovate it. The current disadvantage of the system is its stationary solution, ie installation in a tent.

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In a recent joint US-Polish exercise, Americans highly rated the Polish TOPAZ system, mainly because of its mobility and ability to operate complexly. The TOPAZ system has been developed precisely with such a requirement, given the nature of the Polish Army, which, like the Army of the Czech Republic, deploys or will deploy both older weapons conceptually based on the Warsaw Pact and modern weapons. It has 122/152/155 mm caliber artillery, rocket launchers, mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles, and must effectively link them to command posts and artillery observers. And vertically above with the superior level of command and control, respectively with other command and control systems.

It should be noted that the calculation of fire elements for different weapon systems is different. For a 155 mm howitzer to hit a target at a distance of 20 km, it must use a setting other than a 152 mm howitzer. The reason different elevation of the barrel, so there is a different ballistic curve of the fired projectile.

The Czech Army is going to rearm its artillery regiment with the 155 mm NATO guns, and retain the current 152 mm ShKH DANA howitzers with the Active Reserve, it also operates self-propelled mortars, either the current PRAM or new ones in the future, and it is also going to purchase rocket launchers and introduce combat or reconnaissance drones. It cannot exist without a fire control system capable of serving all of these weapons and communicating effectively with other systems, both vertically and horizontally.

And so far, it seems clear that the only system that, without additional cost for additional development, meets such a requirement is TOPAZ, which has already implemented all these functionalities. The Polish Army has retained the old equipment, such as the DANA howitzers, but also has and is introducing new equipment. Western armies do not need systems for old calibers, but the Army of the Czech Republic does. TOPAZ seems to be the optimal solution.

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