Prime Minister Babiš on Czech Army acquisitions: I think we should buy 210 IFVs

Prime Minister Babiš on Czech Army acquisitions: I think we should buy 210 IFVs
Author: Miloslav Hamřík, Pixabay|Caption: PM Babiš
18 / 05 / 2020, 10:00

Within two months, Prime Minister Babiš fundamentally reconsidered his approach to the Army contract for the acquisition of 210 tracked IFVs. On 17th March he said that "we probably don't need the IFVs immediately" and a month later he told the Czech Television: "At the moment there is probably no situation for us to purchase the IFVs for 50 billion. We more or less agreed with the Ministry of Defense, that we will slow it down." Last week he said that it was important to continue investing and that the Army needed to be completely rearmed and get rid of ex-Soviet technology. He also mentioned a number of other modernization projects, including the acquisition of the 155 mm cannons, off-road vehicles, anti-aircraft systems and ballistic vests.

Not only in the context of the economic downturn, the disputed tender for the acquisition of 210 tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicles worth over 50 billion crowns will continue, despite previous premier’s statements. A month ago, he "more or less" concluded that the project would "slow down", which many saw as its actual end within the given parameters, last Wednesday at a press conference, which followed the meeting of the Lower House Defense Committee, the prime minister literally said: „We are facing a big drop in GDP, a drop of 587 billion is expected, we need to completely rearm the Army and get rid of Russian technology. The big debate is, of course, about the Infantry Fighting Vehicles, we are looking for financing options, but it would be a shame if we I postponed the contract. I think we should buy 210 IFVs."

See also: End of the IFV tender? PM Babiš ordered minister of defence Metnar to stop the purchase

According to Minister Metnar, more than half of the existing BMP-2s (BVP-2s in the Czech Army) are inoperable. The information was supplemented by the Deputy Minister of Defense in charge of the Acquisitions Section, Lubor Koudelka. According to him, the contract for the supply of new vehicles could be concluded by the end of the year, with its financing and supplies being spread over six years. This is due to the date by which the Czech Republic promissed to provide the North Atlantic Alliance with a modern heavy brigade, whose armament will be based on both modern Main Battle Tanks and tracked IFVs for the mechanized infantry. The ministry plans to find out whether it will be possible to postpone the payments and consult all the three biders that are continuing the tender (ie BAE Systems, GDELS and Rheinmetall) on that matter. The Minister of Defense Metnar and the Chief of the General Staff Opata again rejected the idea of ​​modernizing the existing IFVs as unpromising and unworkable.

Prime Minister Babiš added that the Army needs new all-terrain vehicles to replace the existing UAZs. The tender for 1,200 SUVs to replace the UAZs 469 and Land Rover Defenders was canceled by the Ministry of Defense the day before Christmas 2019.

See also: Minister, are you on time with purchasing new IFVs and tanks? Heavy mechanized brigade to be ready in 2026

According to Babiš, the Ministry of Defense is also "in the final phase of the tender" for 155 mm cannons to replace the 152 mm DANA self-propelled howitzer in the professional army, and announced the signing of a framework contract for the supply of 47,000 bulletproof vests from STV Group worth 1.67 billions incl. VAT. The vests are to be delivered in the years 2020-2025. STV Group won the tender last spring.

Minister Metnar also emphasized the benefits of military contracts for the Czech industry and the return on costs through taxes. He and the Prime Minister thanked the Army for its efforts in managing the epidemic, saying the budget of the Ministry of Defense should not come first when looking for savings: "I know we need to get rid of obsolete Russian technology, there are units where technology is up to 40 years old. The Army is always helping and cannot be in the first place when the budgets need to be cut (...) In total, projects worth 68 billion crowns are now planned, 65 billion will go to GDP and 27 billion to taxes. In relation with these projects up to 2 billion crowns are to be invested in research and development," added the Minister of Defense. The planned projects mean the acquisition of the IFVs, 155 mm cannons and SHORAD short-range anti-aircraft systems, which will replace the existing KUB system. Hand in hand with the acquisition of the 155 mm cannons, there is also the need for a modern artillery fire control system.

See also: President of the DSIA (AOBP): if the state wants help from domestic industry in times of crisis, it must maintain its production capacity even in times of non-crisis

Prime Minister Babiš further stated that if the economic forecasts were confirmed, Czech defense spending would amount to 1.46% of GDP in 2021, which is "thanks to" the expected decline in GDP more than originally planned by the government (1.4%). In absolute terms, the defense budget should reach 85 billion crowns next year (almost 10 billion more than this year), and the Prime Minister still expects to achieve 2% of the GDP expenditures in 2024 (which would amount to about 130 billion crowns).

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