What will be the concept of development of the Czech Army with the new leadership?

What will be the concept of development of the Czech Army with the new leadership?
03 / 01 / 2022, 10:00

The new Minister of Defence, Jana Černochová, had already indicated before her arrival that the Concept of build-up of the Czech Army would have to be reworked. The key message was that the 7th Mechanised Brigade (heavy) consists of tracked IFVs and Main Battle Tanks, and one without the other in a way makes no sense. Here it is evident that after a long time, with respect to all predecessors, a minister with a clear vision and professional erudition is coming in, who will obviously not play on bows and also will not be pushed into a corner by statements about the usual price, which obviously simply do not exist in the case of custom-made combat equipment.

Still the most discussed project is the purchase of new tracked IFVs, where the whole project can be redesigned, leaving the combat/strike platforms on tracks and leaving the less combat-exposed ones on wheeled chassis. Tracked vehicles of course have higher clearance in mud or snow, but are more expensive to operate and noisier (where noise doesn't matter in offensive combat, but the scouts have a different opinion), in turn unification within a unit/service simplifies logistics and crew retraining/transferring from one vehicle to another apart from the intended use. A driver or mechanic can always handle familiar technology.

See also: Jana Černochová was sworn in at the Ministry of Defence. She wants to meet the allied commitment of 2% of GDP for defence and continue the modernisation of the Army

But back to the 7th Mechanized Brigade, IFVs and tanks. The Czech Army has decided to build an Airborne Regiment with light vehicles and the so called heavy 7th brigade is being "cupped" to pieces for the time being, when it should be, together with the artillery, the backbone of the defence of the territory of the Czech Republic, not that the backbone is the units of airborne or other invasion operations, which may not be so essential for the defence of the territory of the Czech Republic.

There is still talk of tank troops. Can one tank battalion, which is not even 100% combat-ready and tanks in long-term mobilisation storage in full or half shells and some of which are cannibalised, really be called tank troops? The tank battalion of the 7th mechanized brigade should be rearmed with modern NATO equipment. However, the "re-evaluation" of the T-72 M4 CZ is currently underway. Many spare parts are now unavailable and, after their planned service life is over, they are probably destined for scrapping, except for tracks, radios or running wheels. Therefore, frankly, the tanks are probably unsaleable as well. Then there will be some years of standing backups in the form of T-72 M1s. The long-stored equipment has its clear shortcomings.

And there will be a new tank introduced, incompatible with anything in the arsenal and depot of the Czech Armed Forces. When deploying a modernized tank battalion in combat in the number of about 32 pieces, one has to count on losses, both human and material. And here it is necessary to ask by whom/what to replace them. Reserve crews will be trained on T-72 M1, in the best case M4, but probably not replacement crews for future modern tanks. Additionally, in combat it is common to withdraw a depleted unit, replace it with another, regroup, replenish, or continuously replenish from the reserves in combat.

Now let us imagine that one tank battalion of the Czech Armed Forces, armed with certain vehicles, will be replenished with soldiers trained on different vehicles, or different equipment and crews will be assigned, with completely different training, spare parts, ammunition, etc. The nightmare of every commander in the operation. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to plan for first-line units with rapid recovery capability from identical sources, i.e., backup equipment, crew, ammunition, spare parts, etc., and second-line/mobilized units with what is available from mobilization depots and mobilized units?

Remember the fighting at Dukla and the so-called Valley of Death, where the fighting led to huge losses of life and equipment due to the configuration of the terrain, weather, prepared defences, use of anti-tank weapons, etc. There has been a cessation of fighting, exhaustion and regrouping of units at divisional level, and here we are talking about one battalion of the Czech Army without adequate backup and logistics. And the logistics and the need for backups were also encountered by both warring parties in the Ardennes or in North Africa.

And then we would want drones, satellites, cyber tools, etc. All of this costs a lot of money and you need to train people to do it, have backups, have funding for acquisitions, operations, maintenance and repairs and upgrades.

See also: Bold plans of the new Government for the Army: 2 percent for defence, Euro-Atlantic link and support for domestic industry

And it's really not "buy a tank and be done with it". They say that acquisition is only a third of the cost required to maintain the life cycle. That from an economic and military point of view, having one tank or even a tank battalion is a nice "tinsel", but if in actual combat there is nothing to replace it, whether it is lost in combat or through technical failure, it is useless to a higher level commander, we must have a plan "B" of equal performance. And if there are neither anti-tank units with lots of anti-tank missiles, or other tank units, or heavy IFVs capable of striking power like the Main Battle Tank, then the fight is bad.

So how many APCs/IFVs/MBTs, fighters, fighter-bombers, attack planes or fixed-wing transport aircraft or helicopters does the Czech Army need for the defence and security of this country? How much funding can and should be allocated, and what is the personnel and material support?

It seems that Minister Černochová will have to study a lot of documents and read between the lines in order to uncover all the loops and loopholes of interest groups. We can only wish her good luck.

Author: Milan Váňa

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