Military expert Jaroslav Macošek – Czech multipurpose helicopters acquisition project

Military expert Jaroslav Macošek – Czech multipurpose helicopters acquisition project
09 / 05 / 2019, 10:00

In an interview on the Czech multipurpose helicopter acquisition project, military expert Jaroslav Macošek said the major difference between the American (UH-1Y or UH-60) and the Italian (AW139M) solutions is the price. Equipment, crew training and servicing of the helicopters has also been discussed.

  • Jaroslav, the acquisition of helicopters discussed in the US between Andrej Babiš (Czech PM) and President Trump, is not decided yet. Even though the Deputy Defence Minister Jakub Landovský considered the case closed. According to our information, it has not been decided yet whether there would be a regular tender or an intergovernmental agreement. What could have happened in the meantime?

Looking at the price of these helicopters, our Army considers to purchase 12 of them, and the US is offering 12 helicopters at about CZK 12 billion (USD 521,6 million), the Italians offer 12 helicopters for CZK 6 billion (USD 260,8 million), which makes a big difference. I sincerely believe that someone from the Ministry of Defence realized that purchasing essentially the same product for 12 billion or for 6 billion is a damn difference. Politicians administer taxpayers' public money. These are the means of all of us, and they need to think a lot about how to use them.

See also: Czech Army’s Modernization Projects: the multipurpose helicopters

  • Is there not a difference concerning the equipment or performance between the helicopters in addition to the price?

I am not a pilot, I have never piloted a helicopter, I am rather a reservist, ground trooper, but as I looked at the specifications, the helicopters (the American UH-1Y and the Italian AgustaWestland AW139M) are very similar. Both helicopters have a complete defrosting system, they also come with a complex package of armaments, ballistic protection for pilots and crew, or an efficient aircraft guidance system. The US are also offering the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Although the criteria for the selection of helicopters is secret, I do not understand how a helicopter, which is of a completely different weight category, could have entered this acquisition project.

  • And the technologies you’ve just mentioned are they already implemented in those helicopters, or would they have to be ordered additionally?

In case of the American helicopters it cannot be said unequivocally, while the Italian side has declared that, at the time of delivery, all systems will be installed on the helicopters without any additional ordering.

See also: Military exercises in the Czech Republic - Dark Blade 2019

  • The term of delivery is also important. The Italians that they can do it normally within 24 months. In the case of the Bell helicopter, the Americans supposedly need a year more. Do you see a problem in that?

The term of delivery is not the only fundamental criterion. The Russian “Mi” helicopters are still in a good condition, mainly thanks to the excellent maintenance service in Malešice Aircraft Repair Works, and they can certainly last for some time. Another important criterion is the crew training. The Italians that at the time they deliver helicopters, they will be able to have our crews already trained. The Americans cannot. And it would not be peasant to have the helicopters sitting at our airfields, while only then we would start to consider that pilots have to train. We would basically have "paperweights" for 12 billion crowns at the airfields. The third essential criterion is the warranty. The Italians have guaranteed 1,000 hours of operation or 2 years of warranty. I have not  found any answer from the American side in this matter yet.

  • I was just impressed by the pilot training question you talked about, which is currently being provided by the Malešice Aircraft Repair Works. Does it mean that the new training would be happening there?

The Italians say they would provide pilot training within their own capabilities, apparently at their training bases. As for the Americans, they do not want to train the pilots, they talk about a third party to provide it. But the case of the Malešice Aircraft Repair Works is not clear because they do not have any experience in training on American helicopters of any type.

See also: The Czech Army military equipment overview 2019

  • There will be additional costs that will occur over time. We must not forget about the maintenance of the helicopters. Bell, which produces the UH-1Y, has recently extended the cooperation agreement with LOM PRAHA, where the helicopters should be serviced. It could help the Americans, don't you think?

It is so. It is currently helping the American side, but I am sure there will be a paragraph in the tender to say the helicopters are to be serviced in the Czech Republic, and it would be logical for them to be serviced in a state-owned company such as LOM PRAHA. So it is only a matter of time before the Italians come to an agreement with LOM PRAHA as well.

Jaroslav Macošek is a mechanized infantry squad leader since 2003. The interview was made for the Security Magazín.

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