VERA NG deployable passive ESM trackers case - Czech Army to pay three times more than the NCI did in 2014?

VERA NG deployable passive ESM trackers case - Czech Army to pay three times more than the NCI did in 2014?
27 / 01 / 2020, 09:15

One of the acquisitions of the Ministry of Defence, which attracts the attention of experts and the public is the acquisition of VERA-NG passive surveillance systems from ERA company from Omnipol Group. From CZK 645 million, the price went suddenly to CZK 1.5 billion because someone at the ministry didn't realize they were buying a new generation system and had calculated twenty years old prices. According to defence expert Jaroslav Stefec, such an explanation is pointless, undignified, and the whole case is an obvious attempt at fraud. Does the Army really buy a different system from the one acquired by NCI, "state-of-the-art" and "very different from the supply to NATO six years ago", as the Ministry of Defence claims?

The MoD press release on the purchase of radars says that the system is based on the new passive surveillance systems VERA NG. Each comprises in addition to radars five Tatra T-815 8x8 trucks, off-road vehicles, tents, the necessary computer equipment and other components. "The soldiers will receive new sets in 2021 and 2023. The price is usual in time and place, which we have verified by an independent expert opinion," Deputy Minister of Defence Filip Říha explained.

See also: Czech Army to purchase Vera-NG passive radars

NCI (NATO Communications and Information Agency) acquired two VERA NG passive surveillance systems from ERA for 434 million crowns. The delivery for NCI took place in 2018. And the basis of the system was, as it is today, the passive surveillance systems designated as VERA NG. In fact, how can both orders differ?

"NCIA acquired a system that can be described as transportable," Jaroslav Štefec said. He is a military analyst who studied weapons and defence against rocket technology at VAAZ Brno, and, in addition to the Army, served as a senior official of the Ministry of Defence. The system acquired by NATO is intended for stationary deployment and can be transferred to another location if necessary. The Army of the Czech Republic acquires a mobile system capable of immediate position change. However, there is understandable doubt that other types or quantities of vehicles, the level of their ballistic protection or the number of telescopic masts referred to by the Ministry justify a price difference of one billion crowns.

NATO bought the radars for CZK 434 million without VAT. The price for the purchase of two sets for the ACR is CZK 1.245 billion without VAT.

As we read in the NCI report of 5th December, 2014:

" On 12 May 2014, the NCI Agency has officially awarded to the Czech Company "ERA a.s. a contract amounting to 434 million Czech Koruna (around 16M€) for the provision of two Deployable Passive ESM (Electronic System Measure) Trackers (or DPET) for NATO Air Command and Control Surveillance and Identification. (...) These 2 systems, to be delivered within 3 years, will provide NATO with a capability to deploy Deployable Passive ESM (Electronic Support Measure) sensors to operational theatres as part of a Deployable ACCS capability that will support NATO's deployed operations. This DPET system is a mobile shelterized tactical component that detects and tracks aircraft at long range through the detection and processing of pulsed emissions from the aircraft. The DPET system will consist of a Central Site and multiple Remote Sites comprising sensors, communications and processing modules. The system includes trucks, trailers and generators, and can easily be transported to the theatre of operations and then quickly become operational. The system will be designed to support challenging environmental conditions utilising multiple modes of transportation."

Let’s compare this with the statement of the Ministry of Defence today: " Each comprises in addition to radars five Tatra T-815 8x8 trucks, off-road vehicles, tents, the necessary computer equipment and other components." Is there really space for another one billion crowns? There is certainly no technological difference in the core of the system, VERA NG is VERA NG.

See also: Czech defence budget to reach CZK 75.5 billion for 2020 - is it enough?

According to Jaroslav Štefec, it is realistic to accept a price increase of 25-30% - on the one hand, the mobile system with vehicles with ballistic protection is more expensive, and on the other hand the state can nod to a domestic company without much remorse. not only because it is a form of support to the domestic industry and part of the cost is refunded through taxes. However, this brings us essentially to the amount initially announced and approved by the government: 645 million is an increase of 48.6% over the price for NATO. If we close both eyes, we add inflation. But 1.245 billion (without VAT)? That is 186% higher. For armored trucks and more masts?

According to Jaroslav Štefec, the whole problem arose in a way that is easy to imagine. While experts, manufacturers and experts of the Ministry of Defence and the Army a realistic price, the trader or broker later asked for an irrational increase. And arranged for it. According to Jaroslav Štefec, 1.5 billion is clearly exorbitant and speaks of "attempted fraud".

The MoD’s press release adds: "To ensure maximum security, Minister Lubomír Metnar has instructed for a thorough review of the entire engagement by the independent public procurement oversight department, not part of the armaments and acquisitions section."

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