Venom and Viper helicopters purchase: We stand behind our progress, Minister of Defence says

Venom and Viper helicopters purchase: We stand behind our progress, Minister of Defence says
18 / 12 / 2019, 15:00

In Monday's Interview CT24, Minister of Defence Lubomir Metnar answered questions on the purchase of helicopters from the US, mobile radar from Israel and Spanish transport aircraft CASA. All three acquisition projects have proven difficult, with previous acquisition of CASA aircraft being in court. Ex-Minister of Defence Parkanova is blamed for having purchased these military aircraft at too high a price. Asked by the moderator if he was worried that he would be going to court in two or three years due to Venom and Viper helicopters, Minister Metnar replied: "What am I supposed to tell you? No comment."

We stand behind our progress. This was repeated by Lubomír Metnar in the interview several times. In the case of H-1 helicopters, which will be purchased under a recently signed contract worth CZK 14.6 billion, the first round of revision attempts started: Italian company Leonardo, which offers (offered) the AW139M helicopter, turned to the Office for the protection of competition.

See also: Leonardo turned to the Office for the Protection of Competition regarding the multi-purpose helicopters acquisition

Lubomír Metnar emotionally commented on this step of Italian company after his arrival in the Czech Republic. In response to a question from the Security Magazine he said that the Czech Republic, as a sovereign state, has the right to decide on the form of purchase and described the Italian petition to the Office as "total outrage" and "torpedoing the contract".

Even in the television interview, Metnar reiterated that the Ministry of Defence was proceeding in accordance with Czech and European law. Which is one of the points that Leonardo disputes in its petition, and says the procedure of the Ministry, respectively of the Government of the Czech Republic is illegal. In particular, it reproaches the Czech Republic for the chosen form of intergovernmental agreement, as it believes that it limits access to the contract for potential suppliers, including from the European Union, and thus conflicts with EU rules. According to the Italian company, the circumstances of the purchase of helicopters do not justify an exception to the public procurement rules.

Minister Metnar reiterated that only the US government had submitted a government-to-government bid, from which the Czech Republic would buy eight Venom helicopters and four Viper helicopters at a price that the Ministry of Defence has long reported to be the price at which helicopters would be purchased by the US government itself for its army (or the Marine Corps), and that the price was approved by the US Congress. "That doesn't mean the Czech Republic can't buy it cheaper," the moderator responded, basically saying the same thing Leonardo argues, saying that US bids were not assessed from an economic perspective because there was no comparison but with antother US bid. Given that the price covers not only the helicopters themselves, but also a specific mix of equipment, armaments, ammunition and related services, it is difficult to compare a similar hypothetical purchase for the US Armed Forces. But with the same requirements, it would be possible to compare the bids of the different tenderers, with the offer of the Italian company Leonardo being around half of the American price, and the operating costs also play a role.

See also: Multipurpose Helicopters - Dramatic difference of price between Italian and American solutions

Another minister's argument that the Czech Republic demanded operationally verified military helicopters with certified armaments, is also adressed in Leonardo’s petition. The requirement for helicopters to be deployed in combat was not part of the market research requirements, and is, in Leonardo’s view, an additional argument intended to exclude the company from the acquisition project.

In answer to the question, why the combination of Venom + Viper and not Black Hawk helicopters is more suitable for the Czech Army, the Minister referred to the opinion of an expert team of pilots and ground personnel. He added that he did not intend to hide behind anyone and that he was acquainted with the reasons for the selection in detail, and that the system H-1 according to him meets the requirements of the Army of the Czech Republic.

See also: Czech multi-purpose helicopters tender – four Vipers cannot be effective

Similarly as in Leonardo’s petition to the Office for the protection of competition, referring to the experience with the purchase of CASA transport aircraft, this case was also mentioned in the Czech Television Interview, in connection with the purchase of two new aircraft, which will strengthen the air transport capacity of the Czech Air Force. Former Minister of Defence Vlasta Parkanová faces accusations that without expert opinion she accepted the price that the prosecutor claims to be 800 million higher than the usual price. Minister Metnar does not consider the current cost of two billion for two new airplanes to be exorbitant, saying that the contract includes operational equipment, spare parts and costs associated with the aircraft's lifecycle. He refused to comment on the comparison with the previous problematic contract for four airplanes, as well as he refused to comment on whether he was afraid that he would be himself in court in two or three years because of the multi-purpose helicopters acquisition.

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