RBS-70 Anti-Aircraft Missle System: the Czech price checked

RBS-70 Anti-Aircraft Missle System: the Czech price checked
Author: www.army.cz|Caption: RBS-70
29 / 06 / 2018, 11:30

One particular pending acquisition project by the Czech Ministry of Defence raised interesting questions recently: purchase of new RBS-70 NG Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) Systems produced by the Swedish SAAB company. It appears the Czech Ministry of Defence is willing to pay a considerably higher price than other users. The Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has been interpellated by Lukáš Kolařík (Pirates), member of the Chamber of Deputies on that matter.

The RBS-70 NG Very Short Range Air Defence System is an upgraded variant of the RBS-70 VSHORAD System operated by 19 countries accross the world, including the Czech Republic which purchased the system in 2004. Sixteen RBS-70s integrated into Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems (MANPADS) are operated by the 252nd Air Defence Missile Group of the Czech Army. The weapon is designed for anti-aircraft warfare in all climate zones and with little to no support from other forces against low-altitude air threats like helicopters and close air support (CAS) aircraft such as the A-10, Su-25 or L-159. It’s maximum intercept altitude is 5000 m, and engagement range is 300–8,000 m.

See also: The Czech Ground Air Defence joins the NRF

The RBS-70 NG has been unveiled during the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition in September 2011. It’s integrated sighting system can simultaneoously detect multiple targets, it includes a thermal imager, built-in automatic tracker with manual override, and advanced visual cueing aids. The unjammable laser guidance offers high level of precision. The engagement range of the RBS-70 NG is 220–9,000 m. On the other hand the laser guidance requires good weather conditions to be operated with efficiency.

The current RBS-70s of the previous generation operated by the Czech Army are to be completed with sixteen new systems. The market offers several solutions by different producers. Yet, just like in 2004, the Czech Ministry of Defence did not use competitive tendering and adressed the RBS-70’s producer directly (in 2004 through the Omnipol Group, a common middleman at those times). In 2004 several institutions including the Supreme Audit Office and even the U.S. Embassy impugned the project as „diverting from the standard NATO and EU acquisition procedures“ as the result was a considerably higher price the Czechs payed for the RBS-70 when compared to Thailand or Venezuela: both countries purchased the RBS-70s in the 1990’s at approx USD 270 thousand, while the Czech price reached USD 2.7 million in 2004. The difference may be partially explained by the inflation, difference between generations of the system, and quantity of purchased weapons, yet the only true answer and best price can always be given solely by competitive tendering. The RBS-70 is not a unique system, and Saab is not a local Czech producer, so it is rather difficult (?) to understand why the competition was not allowed.

The story seems to be repeated this year again. Today the price the Brasilians pay for their new RBS-70 reaches approximatelly USD 1.3 million, while the Czechs are offered the RBS-70 NG at about USD 2 million. Krasimira Stoyanova, head of Saab in Central Europe, explains that Brasil purchased renovated older systems, while the Czech Republic is interested in the new generation, the RBS-70 NG. „If the new RBS-70 NG system was chosen, the Czech Republic would see an important increase of it’s Air Defence capacities,“ she said. Certainly, yet there exist other solutions, and the requirements are not publicly known – which is not, of course, of Saab’s concern. One of the potential competitors, the MBDA (a European developer and manufacturer of missiles formed by a merger of three missile producers from France, Italy and UK; producer of the Mistral 3), adressed complaints to the Czech Ministry of Defence.

And deputy Lukáš Kolařík (Pirates) interpelled the Prime Minister Babiš two times on the matter of this project, since he was not satisfied with Prime Minister’s first answer. First Kolařík did not accept the reference to a „Marketing information“ ordred by the Ministry of Defence in 2017, as the Prime Minister’s answer indicates clearly that the purchase of the RBS-70 NG has been decided between 2011 and 2015, thus this Marketing information from 2017 may have no influence on the decision. Kolařík asks the Prime Minister to get this Marketing information in order to study the conclusions.

The deputy states the laser beam is technically outdated, and that the recent systems use rather the infrared homing, more resitant to jamming and capable to track cruise missiles (Mistral 3 by MBDA is an infrared homing MANPADS). Kolařík does not accept the argument which mentions logistical advantages given by the current operation of the older RBS-70 system by the Czech Army. Frist because the tender by the Ministry of Defence commissions complete logistical and training packages, so there already are new costs included in the price; and second because the commission does not include missiles, which are to be ordered separately at another CZK 1.2 billion (USD 53 million). According to the deputy this rises the introduction costs of the new system.

While the RBS-70 NG’s modular design allows it to reuse all existing generations of RBS 70 missiles, the new missiles cannot be used with the older RBS-70 systems.

And finally the deputy asks the Prime Minister to be allowed to study the recently ordered expertise on the current price of the RBS-70 NG VSHORAD system. The Czech Security Magazine published a series of articles concerning the acquisition of the RBS-70 NG. To understand and accept the decision not to go through competitive tendering, the reasons (army requirements) for the choice of the concrete system, and the different information on pricing, the questions asked by the deputy Kolařík require clear answers.

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