Multipurpose Helicopters for the Czech Army - Is the Italian Solution Really Out?

Multipurpose Helicopters for the Czech Army - Is the Italian Solution Really Out?
27 / 06 / 2019, 10:00

In addition to the tracked IFV’s, the second most important acquisition project of the Czech Army is the acquisition of twelve multipurpose helicopters to replace the existing Mi-35/24V from the 221st Helicopter Squadron. The market offers different solutions, and, nothing new in our country, subsequently revealed preferences, based allegedly on army’s expertize, raise questions and criticism.

In June 2018 the Army 2018 introduced its basic requirements for the new multipurpose helicopters, because the current sixteen operated Mi-35 (export designation for the Russian Mi-24V) of Soviet origin is nearing its lifetime. These are twin-engined battle helicopters designed for direct support of ground troops, destruction of armoured vehicles and transportation of persons or material.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the multipurpose helicopters

Apart from the technical parameters, especially the tasks to be performed by new helicopters are interesting. Rather than being "multipurpose", we could designate new machines as "all-purpose". The army wants them to perform the following 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.

The payload of the Mi-35 reaches 2,400 kg at a maximum take-off weight of 12,500 kg, and it can carry up to eight troopers. New helicopters are required to have the payload of at least 960 kg. Mi-24 helicopters are world-wide unique in their conception of combining the characteristics of transport and attack helicopter armed with guided missiles and rockets. The market does offer solutions meeting the Czech requirements. The question is, to what extent and at what cost, and today three different solutions are actually discussed. These two solutions match neither the original of requirements nor the initial purchase price. And these are probably the only ones in the game for the government and the ministry, according to the latest developments: either the UH-1Y Venom (now in combination with the AH-1Z Viper, which is very compatible with the UH-1Y), or the UH-60M Black Hawk. On the other hand, the British-Italian AW-139M offered by Leonardo would be significantly cheaper. Both the Venom and the AW-139M have a load capacity of over 3,000 kg, the UH-60 over 4,000 kg.

See also: Military exercises in the Czech Republic - Dark Blade 2019

Originally, the Ministry of Defense counted on the total purchase price CZK 12 billion (USD 534.8 million). The US Congress recently approved the sale of American technology to the Czech Republic - worth up to CZK 24 billion (USD 1.06 billion); whereas the Italian company Leonardo offers the Czech Army the AW-139M for just over CZK 8 billion (USD 356.5 billion).

"We are the army, we know what we want", is the new marketing motto of the Czech Army, and government politicians also refer to the competence of the Czech Armed Forces to define the parameters of the needed equipment. But is it 12 multipurpose helicopters (AW-139M)? 8 multipurpose (UH-1Y) and 4 attack (AH-1Z) helicopters? 12 heavy multipurpose ones (UH-60M)?

Some time ago, the army knew it wanted 12 multipurpose helicopters at a cost of up to CZK 12 billion. And the US offered 12 Venoms for CZK 13.3 billion, but without Anti-Tank Guided Missiles that these helicopters are not certified for (obviously, the USMC does not need them to fire ATGM’s). Today the same army is considering either 8 Venoms + 4 Vipers, and the latest bid reaches a total cost of CZK 14.5 billion, or 12 Black Hawks that do have the guided missile certification. In their case the offer reached initially CZK 18.1 billion, and it is now CZK 13.2 billion, according to the latest information (24th June 2019).

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