The heavy brigade’s IFVs can be ready until 2026 only with a G2G agreement. Tanks should also be included

The heavy brigade’s IFVs can be ready until 2026 only with a G2G agreement. Tanks should also be included
12 / 11 / 2020, 10:00

During the meeting of the Defense Committee, the Minister of Defense, Lubomír Metnar, confirmed that he expects the budget of his department to grow. The Army of the Czech Republic also counts on it. Given the condition of the equipment and the need to modernize the Army in many respects, non-compliance with the financial framework due to the crisis caused by anti-pandemic measures would jeopardize the readiness and ability to act not only of the 7th Brigade. It is therefore good that Minister Metnar is not giving up the outlook for the growth of the defense budget.

In addition to the clash with the Communists, who want to take 10 billion crowns from the Army’s budget next year, which, according to MoD spokesman Jan Pejšek, would not affect only investment expenditures, there is also a discrepancy within the Government itself. According to the Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová, the Czech Republic will not reach 2% of GDP in defense spending even in 2025. The original plan, on which, among other things, the Government-approved Concept for the Construction of the Army of the Czech Republic 2030 is based, speaks of 2024. The Chief of the General Staff General Opata, in connection with the possible collapse of the IFV purchase, talks about the loss of combat capability of the 7th Brigade.

See also: Another delay of the Czech IFV tender. Now COVID is the reason

The Ministry of Defense speaks of the emphasis in the Alliance on the commitment of 2% of GDP of defense spending by 2024. This commitment is not formally enforceable and is not met by most NATO members in the long term. In recent years, the attention was brought to it mainly by the approach of US President Trump. What many described as perhaps a manifestation of emerging American isolationism or even a reluctance to support allies within the NATO was essentially a reminder of shared responsibility and the fact that while some do not underestimate the issue of defense, many others are just passengers. Among them the Czech Republic with its tiny share of defense spending and, as a result, the condition of the armed forces. It is certainly a question of how vigorously another US president will continue in this policy towards NATO, but the situation of, for example, the outdated IFVs of our 7th Mechanized Brigade will not change for better. The vehicles need to be replaced. And KUB Air-Defense systems need to be replaced. And we need to get modern Main Battle Tanks. And it will be necessary to answer the question of what the Air Force should do after the end of the JAS-39 Gripen lease. And there are many more questions and necessary modernization projects.

Many mainly progressive economists question the capacity of the Army of the Czech Republic to absorb 2% of GDP. Apparently, however, they simply cannot imagine the current state of the equipment. And on the one hand, it is not just about correcting debts from the past. In order to effectively develop the capabilities of the armed forces, and such an approach directly determines the country's defenses and our readiness to support our allies, defense must have the most stable financial framework possible, which won’t be limiting it to just maintenance. Some might argue that everyone would want a "stable financial framework". Definitely yes. But this is about the external security of the state, and securing it is perhaps still one of the main purposes of its existence.

See also: The modernization of the Czech Army should support the Czech defense industry

Investments in technology and equipment, real estate, investments in people. They go beyond operating and maintenance costs, but if they are underestimated in the long run, the armed forces lose their effectiveness over time. The other side of the coin is certainly transparency and, in general, the competence of the Ministry of Defense to draw funds effectively - control and supervision are essential. We have a small professional army supplemented by active reserves. A relatively numerically weak army will only be effective in a crisis if it has a clear qualitative and technological superiority over the enemy, and an effective ability to support each other with Allied forces. And such a situation cannot be ensured without investment. The Communists want to cut the defense budget by 10 billion crowns. Next year, the MoD expects to invest 25 billion. However, according to information from the Ministry of Defense, a full 22 billion is already earmarked for already concluded contracts and completed projects. So at least seven billion would have to be "saved" by the Army in other areas.

The greatest attention is now paid to the historically largest defense tender of the independent existence of the Czech Republic, ie the purchase of 210 tracked IFVs, with which our army will be equiped in the next three or four decades. The question of tanks was behind it. The lack of resources and will and delays led to a debatable project of "technical improvement" of existing obsolete T-72M4 CZ tanks. At the same time, the effectiveness of the mentioned heavy brigade level task force, which will rely on three battalions of mechanized infantry on tracked IFVs and on a tank battalion, is related to tanks and their parameters.

See also: The share of the Czech defense industry on the modernization of the T-72M4 CZ tanks will only reach 35%

We have recently seen the Hungarian approach to the same issues. With a budget in absolute amounts significantly lower than that available to the Czech Ministry of Defense, the Hungarian government was able to resolve both the issue of modern tanks, self-propelled artillery and tracked IFVs of its armed forces. In the case of tracked IFVs, the Czech Republic is following the path of competition and the changes and postponements made it culminate just before the parliamentary elections next year. The situation is influenced by the ongoing restrictions due to the Chinese virus pandemic. The further course of the tender cannot be expected to be smooth, and even if it were completely smooth, the signing of a contract of such value a few months before the elections is difficult to imagine. However, the date of January 1, 2026 does not depend on our internal situations. If, and it is likely, the fate of modernization in this regard depends on the new government, then it will only be able to meet its commitment to NATO by changing its approach. Namely, if it acquires the necessary equipment in the form of an intergovernmental agreement, G2G. And if they succeed, and must succeed, in defending the planned growth of defense spending, the new government should not ignore the issue of tanks, and find an effective solution for the tank battalion. The Hungarians could do it. Why should not the richer Czech Republic do it too?

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