Modernization of the T-72M4 CZ tanks in the light of the findings of the Supreme Audit Office

Modernization of the T-72M4 CZ tanks in the light of the findings of the Supreme Audit Office
Author:|Caption: T-72M4 CZ
01 / 06 / 2020, 10:00

The Supreme Audit Office states in its report on the inspection of repairs and maintenance of the Czech armored vehicles in 2016-2018 that less than 43% of tanks were operational during this period. This condition has worsened, modernized T-72M4 CZ tanks serves with only one company out of three professional companies, the remaining two, as well as Active Reserve company, use the old T-72M1. The Ministry of Defense pays attention to this issue in its response to the Office’s press release: "In the case of modernized T-72M4 CZ tanks (the project was completed in 2008), the inoperability is caused by their unique and rare design, which complicates spare parts availability and repairs." And it is precisely these unique and rare tanks that the army wants to maintain and the MoD is preparing further modernization for them, which attracts long-term attention.

For the Ministry of Defense, the low number of tanks explains why there is a shortage of spare parts and why vehicle maintenance is expensive and problematic, but now such an argument is not strong enough and tanks need to be modernized and kept in service at all costs. So they can bridge the period before the Army purchases new tanks that will allow it to fulfill its commitment to build a heavy-type brigade task force for NATO's Rapid Reaction Force, which is to be operational on 1st January 2026.

See also: The Czech T-72 tank modernization project not canceled – but it should be

This is another example of the inconsistent approach of the Ministry of Defense to the issue of modernization of T-72M4 CZ. Elsewhere in its report, the Supreme Audit Office states that the military is too dependent on external suppliers. In the case of the lengthy modernization of the T-72 tank from the 90s, this was very clear. Some components, especially the TURMS-T fire control system from the Italian company Officine Galileo, are no longer manufactured, and in a fleet of thirty vehicles, cannibalization is not a solution for long. The solution will now be fast invented and applied for a minimum number of vehicles by the VOP CZ, while it must fit into one billion crowns budget. Although a few months ago there was an information that the order was undervalued and that the real cost of tank modernization will double. After criticism connected mainly with the DPET project (VERA NG) and the dismissal of deputy minister Říha, the Ministry of Defense continues in the project to its original extent and at the original price.

In its reply to the Supreme Audit Office's findings, the Ministry of Defense states, among other things: "The inoperability of technology is in many cases caused by its age and often by exceeding the technical service life." – the T-72M4 CZ tanks are definitely obsolete. These are thirty vehicles of a world-unique version of the vehicle, which of course will not be compatible with the newly acquired Main Battle Tanks. For an incomprehensible reason, however, both the Army and the Ministry of Defense insist that these vehicles need to be modernized for one billion crowns (read: repair and replace non-functional and discontinued components) - and "bridge" the period until new tanks are purchased. At the same time, the tanks are serviced for the Army by the state enterprise VOP CZ, and the numbers given by the Supreme Audit Office are thus its sad result. The MoD entrusted the company with such references with the integration of the largest arms tender in the history of the Czech Republic. And it is not service of 33 vehicles as in the case of tanks, which the company was unable to deliver according to the real needs of the Army (among other reasons it most probably did not receive correct funding for the service), but 210 modern tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

See also: Czech Army should buy new tanks, not upgrade the T-72 – former Chief of General Staff says

Even if an optimistic assumption is made that the first modernized tanks will be handed back to the Army in 2022, the modernization is to be completed in 2025. At that time, the acquisition of new modern tanks will have to be underway long ago. Subsequently, they will be handed over to Active Reserves - and these will be bothered for the next x years with the phenomena that not only the Supreme Audit Office now states: obsolete tanks with a lack of spare parts. Wouldn't it be better to invest that billion in the purchase of modern vehicles and to equip Active Reserves with tanks of an older version, but compatible with those that the professional tank battalion will use?

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