The Army is to get its new helicopters. The police and the integrated rescue system need them too

The Army is to get its new helicopters. The police and the integrated rescue system need them too
Caption: AW101
01 / 10 / 2020, 10:00

Whatever we can think of the decision of the Ministry of Defense to purchase twelve American helicopters for the Czech Air Force, and apart from the costs and complications of the acquisition, it is certain that the Army will be equipped with modern and powerful helicopters. The acquisition of Venoms and Vipers in replacement of the obsolete Mi-35s to some extent overshadowed another important and necessary acquisition. Media were reporting on the latter about two years ago in connection with the experience gained by the Police of the Czech Republic during the Demon 2018 exercise: the acquisition of two heavy helicopters by the Ministry of the Interior for the needs of intervention units and in general for their use by IRS units.

For a short time, a case of lack of police helicopters emerged in direct connection with the decision to purchase the Venom multi-purpose helicopters and Viper attack helicopters last November. At that time, Prime Minister Babiš considered that the outdated Mi-35s (Mi-24Vs) could, after modifications, get into the air fleet of the Police of the Czech Republic, and serve in the anti-terrorist unit. Apart from immediate jokes about the fact that the gunships could be suitable for chasing road pirates on the D1 highway, a strong answer came from the Ministry of the Interior immediately: The police is not interested in such helicopters.

The idea did not take place, not only because the Mi-35 with a capacity of eight carried troopers can not solve the problem of the Czech Police with insufficient capacity of its own helicopters. Also because in addition to the advanced age of these ex-Soviet gunships, one of the important reasons for their replacement by the Army is to reduce dependence on Russia. The Army still uses other ex-Soviet helicopters: the multi-role Mi-17s, which will soon be decommissioned as well (2004-2006), and the younger Mi-171Sh (these should serve, after modernization, until 2035) - and these were mentioned by the Minister of the Interior Hamáček last November, as theoretically more acceptable option if the Police of the Czech Republic were to use military helicopters. However, the Army is counting on them and they cannot be a stable solution to the situation.

The absence of heavy multi-purpose helicopters in the Police Air Force and in general for IRS units was revealed as a problem not only by the Démon 2018 anti-terrorist exercise. The exercise was attended by 2000 civilian extras, 400 police officers, four Bell 412 helicopters from the Police Air Force, intervention vehicles and other equipment were deployed. The intervening URNA (Rapid response unit) teams had to be transported to the site in parts due to the insufficient capacity of the helicopters. The solution to such a situation is an intervention conducted mainly on the ground, which is not always possible, or borrowing larger helicopters from the Army, or buying two large helicopters to cover such needs of the Police, and at the same time they can be used for other tasks within the IRS.

However, insufficient capacity for URNA deployment was not first reported in 2018. When the massacre of eight restaurant guests took place in February 2015 in Uherský Brod, the intervention unit did arrive with a considerable delay, in ground vehicles. An army helicopter with sufficient capacity is not available at any time. Its use by the police can be pre-negotiated for exercise or planned action, but when a sudden and unexpected event comes, such a "system" can prove cumbersome and ineffective. "The police does not have a large-capacity helicopter, although they have repeatedly asked for it in the past. They did not receive money for it," the then police president Tomáš Tuhý said.

Only after the evaluation of the Démon 2018 exercise in December 2018 did the Government support the intention to acquire two heavy helicopters for the needs of the Czech Police, set aside funds for 2021, and counted on a total price of 3.6 - 4 billion crowns, and their delivery of 1.5 - 3 years after the signing of the contract. The market offers a number of options that the Ministry of the Interior will have to evaluate according to the required parameters of the helicopters. Helicopters in this category are offered by Airbus (AS332 Super Puma or EC725 Caracal), Leonardo (AW101) or Sikorski (S-92). All of them can be used both for the transport of sufficiently large teams of intervention units and, for example, for effective extinguishing fires from the air or evacuation of people from the endangered area, etc.

Whatever solution the Ministry of the Interior decides, the problem that the Police have been talking about for more than five years should certainly not get forgotten. The Army of the Czech Republic will receive its new (and very well paid) helicopters - the Police of the Czech Republic and the Integrated Rescue System in general should not be left out. And heavy helicopters may be needed at any time. Criminals and natural disasters do not ask and wait until we are ready.

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