According to the members of the Defence Committee, what are the main priorities in the modernisation of the Czech Armed Forces?

 06. 11. 2022      category: Topic
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The Ministry of Defence has launched modernisation projects with greater vigour. The plan of the Concept of the Build-up of the Army of the Czech Republic is being fulfilled and the completion of the heavy brigade is proceeding faster. The Minister of Defence Jana Černochová has received Government approval for the negotiation of the delivery of tracked IFVs or supersonic aircraft, and the future acquisition of new tanks is also being addressed. In addition to these major projects, a number of smaller acquisitions are underway to modernise our Army. At the same time, the Czech Republic has taken over the Presidency of the European Union for the second half of this year. Is there a chance to promote Czech companies on the European market as most of the tenders announced so far have demanded?

In connection with the above, we asked the Committee members the following questions:

1. Modernisation of military equipment is a major issue for the Czech Army given the current situation. What do you think our army needs as a priority and how can the Defence Committee contribute to a quick solution?

2. In your opinion, can the Czech Republic, as the EU Presidency country, influence the involvement of Czech companies in European arms production

Below are the answers of the MPs who responded to our questions:

Lubomír Metnar (ANO), Chairman of the Committee

1. Of course, the most important thing for the Army of the Czech Republic is the fulfilment of the heavy brigade commitment, to which we have committed ourselves until 2026. To fulfil this commitment, we need to finalise several acquisitions, including IFVs and tanks. In the light of these important orders, we must not forget the acquisitions in the field of ballistics, logistics and equipment components, which are the de facto basis for every soldier. Some military material could be acquired this year, if the route of amendments to contracts already concluded in the Ministry were used.

2. I am convinced that the Czech Republic must take advantage of the EU Presidency. Ursula von der Leyen has already outlined the way forward in the area of defence. It was she who proposed that the armaments sector in Europe should become more unified, and now the Czech Republic has a unique opportunity under the Presidency to involve our defence industry in the acquisitions that will be made.

cv90lesPicture: The most important thing for the Czech Army is to fulfil the heavy brigade commitment we have made by 2026. To do this, several acquisitions need to be finalised, including IFVss (pictured here, CV90 IFV) and tanks. | BAE Systems

Josef Flek (STAN), Vice-Chairman of the Committee

1. We have set clear priority themes: air defence, heavy brigade, cyber security and overall adaptation to hybrid warfare. In June, I held a workshop on biological threats in the 21st century at the Health Committee, of which I am a member. This may seem like a seemingly unrelated topic. However, we need to remember that biological weapons are much easier to produce, easy to spread and overwhelming to a relatively large proportion of the population. If a non-state actor like Al-Qaeda were to get hold of the smallpox virus, we would only see global terrorist attacks. Other members of the Defence Committee also attended the seminar. However, roundtables and linking experts from the outside with legislators are not enough. Far from it. As Vice-Chairman of the Defence Committee, I am now the rapporteur for a number of key pieces of material, for example on the decision to buy fifth-generation fighter jets. I fully support the decision. It is unpopular, but in the long run, our country will benefit from such quality. However, the Defence Committee should continue to serve as a forum for discussion, where we can clarify all the pros and cons of the decisions under consideration. It would be wrong to bypass it.

2. As the presiding country, we have a responsibility for all the countries of the European Union and we must be able to balance different interests. We moderate, represent and negotiate. I therefore do not think that the Presidency is the right instrument in this respect. However, where I definitely see opportunities to promote our undoubtedly very high-quality arms industry are official visits by delegations of Czech politicians abroad: to take large business delegations, to seek contracts – to promote Czech interests. We shall see how, for example, the new Czech president will approach this. I hope that the media will start asking the presidential candidates about these crucial issues and stop talking about the foam of the day. After all, we are electing, among others, the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and also the chief promoter of the Czech Republic's economic interests in the world. We should open as many doors as possible for our (not only) arms entrepreneurs.

04_Cover_Leopard_WEBPicture: The purchase of German Leopard 2 A7 tanks seems to be one of the most likely solutions for the acquisition of new tanks for the Czech Armed Forces | KMW

Jan Hofmann (ODS), Vice-Chairman of the Committee

1. The modernisation of the Army is indeed the number one priority, which unfortunately has not been given much consideration in recent years. We have strategic projects ahead of us, the preparation of which is currently under way, and these are the largest investments in decades. The priority is the purchase of the IFVs, where we are back on track after ten years of negotiations, and where the Government has decided to negotiate with the Swedish Government. That in itself is basically the biggest approach to the acquisition of the IFVs. My view on this equipment is very positive, as it is a proven equipment that is part of several armies in Europe. The next priority is the supersonic air force, where our current lease expires in 2027. Here, too, the Government has decided to negotiate with the US Government to buy the F-35, currently the best machine, which should provide the army with superior technical equipment beyond 2040. It is highly likely that this machine will still be one of the most advanced so many years from now. The purchase of tanks is also a strategic objective, which is also where we have a commitment to NATO. There I hope to start negotiations in the near future. We also have the purchase of helicopters, where the first step has already been taken by the last Government, and it is up to us to continue with the purchases. These points are also dealt with by the Defence Committee, which receives information on the actions taken by the Ministry of Defence. The Committee was informed of the Government-to-Government negotiations on the IFVs and supersonic aircraft before the decision was presented to the Government, for which I would like to thank the Minister. Unfortunately, the absence of some colleagues from the meeting and their subsequent reactions on social media complaining about the lack of information is a blemish on the beauty of the meeting.

f35_01Picture: Negotiations are also currently underway with the US Government to purchase F-35 aircraft | Lockheed Martin

2. I do not know whether the Czech Republic can influence the involvement of companies in European arms production. What it can do, however, is appeal to its EU partners to involve Czech companies in production, or better still, to buy Czech products outright. However, this is also done in every meeting, where we point to a number of possible collaborations between Czech companies and foreign partners. All this was happening even before the Czech Presidency of the Council of the EU. Now that more negotiations are taking place and more frequently, the possibility of supporting Czech companies is higher.

Pavel Růžička (ANO), Vice-Chairman of the Committee

1. Personally, I hope that the various fake renewals of hopelessly outdated equipment are definitely a thing of the past, and that we will now only acquire new equipment that is appropriate for the current battlefield. It is hard to name one priority when the Army as a whole is in the state it is in. Its land component in particular has been underfunded for a long time, and I say for myself that we must urgently arm the 7th Mechanised Brigade, the so-called heavy brigade. This means, in particular, tanks and IFVs. What will happen after the current Minister has thrown the efforts of her predecessors and several dozen experts from the Ministry and the General Staff into the bin is the question. I, as a member of the Defence Committee, will be demanding evidence of the data on which the Minister will base her selection. If we live in a state governed by the rule of law, it is necessary to comply with the law and not to select according to a catalogue. We also have large gaps in air defence, and missile defence of our territory does not exist at all. It is necessary to strengthen logistics, to replenish stocks and, finally, after 30 years, to unify the trucks used in the Army on two platforms, medium and heavy, ideally always from the same manufacturer and of the same type. In addition to combat systems, it is necessary to focus on another underestimated area, namely the immovable infrastructure.

2. I do not want to underestimate our Presidency, but neither do I want to overestimate it. European weapons programmes are based on completely different parameters than who holds the EU Presidency for six months at a time. We need to acknowledge this and not paint air-locks. On the contrary, the Government can do a lot of work for the Czech defence industry here at home. By pushing hard for its involvement in new acquisitions, and unfortunately this is not happening. I am really disappointed that what was started during the Government of our movement, i.e. the maximum share of Czech industry in the supply of the Czech Armed Forces, is now being sacrificed for the alleged speed of acquisitions.

Stanislav Blaha (ODS), Member of the Committee

1. The last significant renewal of equipment by the army was in 2010, when Pandurs and Casa aircraft were purchased – that is 12 years without renewal. I think that the priority should be to replace the 7th Mechanised Brigade, which is already on the verge of being operational. Also obsolete are the BVP-2 combat vehicles and T-27M4CZ tanks, which could replace the CV90s and Leopard tanks. They are already going into the Army and I am very happy about that. The CV90 is being negotiated with Sweden. The rocket artillery also needs to be replaced. The conflict in Ukraine clearly shows why this is needed. The Army will also acquire Israeli Spyder mobile air defence systems within a few years, which will greatly strengthen our defence. The role of the Defence Committee is mainly one of scrutiny. We oversee the efficiency, meaningfulness and transparency of purchases. We are such a watchdog for the ministry in ensuring that acquisitions are made on time and are successful in terms of cost and quality.

2. An unequivocal yes. We have the attention of the whole of Europe on us. Let's show what skilful and excellent companies are based and producing here. The Czech defence industry has a great name abroad, and the Presidency is certainly an opportunity to help it even more. Especially at the present time, when European armies are rearmament and looking for new equipment. Czech defence industry companies have sufficient capacity to initiate joint defence projects with them in Europe under the guarantee of the Czech Government.

Jiří Horák (KDU-ČSL), Member of the Committee

1. The priority clearly remains the purchase of IFVs. The members of the Defence Committee are then striving to ensure that the purchase takes place in the simplest and quickest possible way. In my opinion, there is general agreement among the members on this.

2. The Czech Republic, as the EU Presidency, cannot use its position to influence the involvement of Czech companies in European arms production. That is not how the European Union works. From the position of the presidency, the Czech Republic can, in particular, set and influence the agenda and programme for the EU Council and, in general, raise key issues and priorities. However, the involvement of Czech companies can be influenced directly by the Ministry of Defence in the preparation of tenders for the equipment to be purchased, which is certainly a good way.

Miloslav Janulík (ANO), Member of the Committee

1. Co armáda prioritně potřebuje, musí vědět jen a jen ona, tohle by se nemělo rozhodovat politicky ale pouze racionálně. Jen je třeba eliminovat lobbystické tlaky. 

2. To je otázka na ministra a vládu. Velmi se holedbají, jak řídí Evropu, tak snad dokáží zařídit takovou drobnost.

Karel Krejza (ODS), Member of the Committee

1. In any case, the need to have drones and heavy equipment in the arsenal has become apparent, if only to fulfil NATO's commitment to modernise the heavy brigade. The committee should not oppose the G2G purchases, as this is the fastest legal route to acquisition at the moment.

2. The Presidency has opened up a number of opportunities – round tables, seminars, factory tours where successful Czech arms products can be presented. Our companies have a lot to boast about and I am sure that they are competitive and will not be lost in the world, let alone in Europe.

Petr Liška (STAN), Member of the Committee

1. In view of the experience of the current conflict, we should evaluate priorities in coordination within NATO. The key is to fulfil the commitments within the framework of common defence. The acquisition for the purchase of the IFVs must be completed. Cybersecurity is an important area, and I think we need to evaluate the effectiveness of the air defence systems, particularly with regard to protection against attacks on civilian targets.

2. The involvement of our armaments industry in European arms production is usually a long-term process, which is normally a complex negotiation, with each state defending its own position. Now the situation is different in the increased demand for armaments around the world, and here I see an opportunity to establish cooperation more quickly to meet the demand of manufacturers whose capacities are not prepared for the increased demand caused by the war in Ukraine and the growing tensions in other parts of the world. Of course, there is also an opportunity for the Army in acquisitions, but I must say that due to our "hesitancy", some interesting opportunities may have passed us by. The Presidency is an opportunity to spark a debate on the joining of forces of arms production in Europe, which is in everyone's interest.

Michaela Opltová (STAN), Member of the Committee

1. For many years there have been discussions about the need for new aircraft and IFVs. We have strategic documents defining what the Army needs, and I would follow those strategies and fully trust them. What the army needs at the moment is the attention and trust of politicians. It shows that defence spending is important. The role of the Defence Committee is to communicate between politicians, the military and the public. Politicians must prove to the public that defence is absolutely crucial for the Czech Republic. 

2. Definitely yes, negotiations are already underway. These issues are important to our committee and we are dealing with them.

Radovan Vích (SPD), Member of the Committee

1. The priorities of the Army have not changed in principle. These are long-delayed and cancelled modernisation projects in the order of CZK 100 billion. The situation is worst in the ground troops and the air defence forces. The Defence Committee can speed up purchases by amending the Public Procurement Act or other laws by amending the necessary legislation. However, this is a matter for the current governing coalition of ODS, KDU-ČSL, TOP 09, Pirates and STAN, which has so far done little apart from donating weapons, equipment and material to Ukraine. On the contrary. 

2. It cannot. In its six-month engagement in this role, the EU presidency becomes only a moderator and organiser of meetings of EU bodies at all levels, which will cost us CZK 2.25 billion from the state budget. This money would be better spent on area-based assistance to our citizens to cope with the energy and food crisis. The involvement of our companies in European arms production is also affected by the EU taxonomy and the banking sector's restrictions on our defence industry. In addition, the conflict in Ukraine is fundamentally affecting the demand for new weapons in virtually all EU countries, and opportunity favours the prepared, with speed and price being the decisive factors. And here we are simply lagging behind.

Lubomír Wenzl (ANO), Member of the Committee

1. I see it as crucial to rearm our army with Western technology, currently technology for air and ground forces. It is essential to proceed with purchases in such a way as to negotiate the best possible price, utility value and life cycle. It is necessary to reflect the requirements of NATO and our army and to conclude long-term contracts with strategic partners. Emphasis must be placed on purchasing equipment with NATO calibre standards so that we are always operational and, if necessary, can help our partners or, conversely, they can help us.

2. The Czech Republic holds the EU Presidency for six months, which is a very short period of time. Purchases are made through tenders or through interGovernmental agreements. We introduced the condition of the involvement of the Czech defence industry in the purchases of the Czech Armed Forces during the ANO Government and we continue to insist on it. I think that our defence industry has a lot to offer, whether in production or in the development of new technologies. I would like us to work more on contracts that will directly or indirectly support Czech manufacturers. This would strengthen their position on foreign markets. Notwithstanding the fact that we are currently the EU Presidency, our Government can and should play a positive role in this area in the coming period.

 Author: Jan Zilvar

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