Gen. Karel Řehka: My main and only goal is combat capability

 23. 11. 2023      category: Army of the Czech Republic
Přidat na

The Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic, Lieutenant General Karel Řehka, in the presence of the President of the Republic Petr Pavel and the 1st Deputy Minister of Defence František Šulc, addressed the Command Assembly of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army of the Czech Republic in Prague this week. This regular meeting of the Command of the Army of the Czech Republic sets the priorities for the development of the Czech army and the main tasks of the armed forces for the next period of 2024. It is also a space for reviewing the past year. In addition, this year's meeting had several important moments, such as the enactment of the level of defence spending at 2% of GDP or the announcement that it is impossible to ignore the growing number of threats, tensions and especially the war conflicts in Ukraine and Israel.

In his introductory speech, General Řehka thanked the soldiers, "Most of you work selflessly, look for ways, are not afraid of responsibility and do not make excuses," said the Chief of General Staff, who also appreciated the social and political support not only in the person of President Pavel, the Government of the Czech Republic, constitutional officials, but above all the public. He also recalled the ongoing war in Ukraine, where he said Russia is preparing for a long war of attrition, and mentioned the conflict in the Middle East and other parts of the world, such as Nagorno-Karabakh. "Conflicts, strategic shocks and surprises recur with iron regularity. We cannot count on eternal peace," said Lt. Gen. Rehka literally, adding that the potential for escalation in the world is growing.

Foto: „Je mojí povinností říkat fakta, i když jsou nepříjemná. A budu to dělat dál,“ sdělil ve své řeči genpor. Karel Řehka | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: "It is my duty to tell the facts, even if they are unpleasant. And I will continue to do so," said Gen. Karel Řehka | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

"It is my duty to tell the facts, even if they are unpleasant. And I will continue to do so. If there was a conflict between Russia and the Alliance, we would be an active participant from the first second. It would affect the military, but also our infrastructure and all citizens. It changed the way we look at our planning and our established procedures," Rehka continued his speech, referring to the next level of threat in the form of terrorism, which is the Alliance's most important adversary besides Russia. Zero tolerance is an important element of the fight against terrorism, according to the Chief of General Staff.

In his speech, General Rehka also recapitulated his main objectives, which were stated last year and are still valid. "My main and only goal is combat capability," the Chief of the General Staff said, recalling five directions to help achieve that goal. These include a military defence review based on the government-approved security strategy. The military, he said, is testing and revising defence plans, working on the peace and wartime structure of the army, and also dealing with reserves, mobilisation and the creation of adequate supplies. Implementation of alliance regional defense plans is also an important component.

Foto: „Můj hlavní a jediný cíl je bojeschopnost,“ uvedl náčelník generálního štábu,“ uvedl ve své řeči genpor. Karel Řehka (ilustrační foto) | mjr. Ladislav Kabát
Picture: "My main and only goal is combat capability," said Gen. Karel Rehka | mjr. Ladislav Kabát

The second direction is the vision of future warfare in the newly established Future Warfare Council with its many working teams. Third is modernization, in which the military has made dramatic progress this year. Recall, for example, the acquisition of CV90 tracked infantry fighting vehicles, which marks a key weapon system for the ground forces to rearm the 7th Mechanised Brigade. The acquisition of the F-35 aircraft means a qualitatively higher level of operation, command and control, along with digital transformation for the entire army. It also includes AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters, TITUS armoured communications and command and control vehicles, MADR mobile 3D radars and STARKOM electromagnetic warfare systems. Integration of the new CAESAR guns and the automated fire control system is also underway.

An integral part of these changes is also the rearmament of the active reserve, according to Rehka. Recruitment, which the Chief of the General Staff considers the most important and most difficult, is a long-term problem and the key to success. An essential direction, according to him, is the cultivation of the strategic discussion on the defence of the Czech Republic, to which the ACR contributes significantly. "The army does not control the direction of the social discussion. However, we are trying to contribute to a serious debate on what is the real threat to us, who our adversary is and how we will mobilise society to cope with the crisis. Not about how many vehicles we have or which cannon is better. To do that, we meet with the security and academic community, we talk to constitutional officials, we participate in lectures and we make public appearances in that spirit," said Lt. Gen. Rehka.

Major challenges for the Army in 2024 include combat readiness, recruiting and training. According to Rehka, modernization alone will not solve the current problems. The key is quality soldiers, commanders, good training and adequate doctrine. "In addition to weapons and equipment, other aspects such as morale, training, leadership, thinking, concepts and doctrine are equally important. The worst would be to get too complacent about new technology or to wait passively for it," said Rehka, reminding that the military must work on deterrence and defence and prepare for the worst-case scenario, a high-intensity, large-scale war with a technologically advanced adversary equipped with nuclear weapons. An important support for the Czech Republic is its membership in NATO, and in building and preparing the army it is necessary to respect the approved alliance defence plans. "Combat capability, a higher level of readiness, more extensive contributions to the new alliance force model, securing the territory for the reception and transit of allied forces. We have to resupply and the whole country will have to prepare. We must manage all of this while meeting our current missions and commitments, including overseas operations and detachments to the contingency force," the chief of staff said.

Concluding his remarks, Lt. Gen. Řehka stated that defence is not a task for the army alone and the whole republic must prepare in terms of civil protection, transport infrastructure, supply, medical care, etc. However, in the event of military threats, the army must take the initiative and play a key role in these efforts.

Afterwards, President Petr Pavel praised the speech of the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces and stressed the readiness of our army. "At the same time, we should very closely monitor all conflicts that occur in the world and take them as an open textbook. Not only the war in Ukraine, but also the conflict in the Middle East gives us a lot of lessons on how to change and adapt not only our army, but also the system of management, intelligence, logistics in order to be successful in a possible conflict," President Pavel said. In addition to the open conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, the President also recalled, for example, the situation in the Sahel and the related risks of migratory waves to Europe.

Foto: Prezident Petr Pavel projev náčelníka Generálního štábu AČR ocenil a zdůraznil připravenost naší armády | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: President Petr Pavel praised the speech of the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces and stressed the readiness of our army | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

The President also spoke highly of our membership of NATO and the EU. He said it was important that we were trustworthy and reliable partners and that we were legible to our allies. "I've made many appeals in the past on the military committee floor to abandon, at least among the military, the exaggerated political correctness, to call issues by their real names, and unlike me, who at times has to be careful about making statements that are sensitive enough, you are expected to be brutally truthful. So I would like to encourage you not to formulate your assessments of the situation according to how they will be received by the political level, but according to what the situation demands," President Petr Pavel stressed in his speech.

In his speech, First Deputy Defence Minister František Šulc recalled the two-year period of work of the ministry led by Minister Jana Černochová. According to him, the security situation in the world is the worst in the last three decades. "The greatest world order as we know it is facing attacks from all sides," Šulc said. In this context, he highlighted not only our membership in NATO, but also stressed the need to erase the debt incurred in the past in defence. "We need to invest in defence, smartly and effectively. This is the only way to protect our freedoms, our standard of living and our society," said the 1st Deputy Defence Minister.

In addition to our alliance with NATO, Šulc said it is also important for the Czech Republic to repair relations at the bilateral level, such as the adoption of the DCA agreement with the United States. Another key document is the adoption of the new Defence Strategy of the Czech Republic, which, according to Šulc, is the assignment of where the Czech Republic will be heading at a time when we are facing hybrid actions, cyber attacks and the use of energy dependence as a weapon. Our military, he said, is dependent on private supplies and complex supply chains, which means defence goes far beyond the armed forces. "Defence is a matter for the whole of society, not just the Ministry of Defence, and this needs to be repeated over and over again. That is why we have pushed for another form of public involvement in national defence," said First Deputy Defence Minister František Šulc, adding, "The acquisition of systems is useless without their implementation, without sufficient ammunition and trained personnel. We must constantly prove to the public that investments in defence are effective. We need to explain that this is not some haphazard contrivance, but a meaningful use of public funds to protect our country and its citizens."

Foto:  „Obrana je věcí celé společnosti, nejenom ministerstva obrany, a toto je nutné opakovat stále dokola,“ řekl ve svém projevu František Šulc | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: "Defence is a matter for the whole of society, not just the Ministry of Defence, and this must be repeated over and over again," said František Šulc in his speech. | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

At the subsequent press conference, the Chief of the General Staff, when asked about the cooperation between the army and universities, specifically the CTU, said that the army is trying to develop cooperation. "We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CTU which defines areas of cooperation. We have identified several key areas of interest for the future. Technologies that we think will have implications for the military and for future warfare. Now we are having expert discussions at the level of our teams and people who are dealing with particular areas with specific faculties," Lieutenant General Rehka told CZ DEFENCE, according to whom the negotiations are at the beginning and the first concrete projects are just starting to get off the ground.

Our follow-up question, which was directed to First Deputy Defence Minister František Šulc, concerned the creation of supplies for our army. In previous speeches, it has been said that this is an important element of the sustainability of the army's capabilities. František Šulc told CZ DEFENCE: "Stocks are critical. This is a simple sentence that hides a rather complex complexity of all the questions, answers and procedures. Ukraine clearly shows that without sufficient stocks of not only ammunition, but also spare parts or, for example, the ability to repair on our territory, it cannot work. We are facing, as the budget increases, logically more pressure on the number of acquisitions and the volume of acquisitions that the ministry has to administer. I'll speak for everybody, because we also have state-owned enterprises that help and support the military. We have to look for efficiencies, and we are looking for efficiencies. You can already see that, for example, in the fact that we are focusing more on longer-term framework contracts for ammunition or spare parts, for example. This allows us to reduce administration. We are trying to give preference to domestic industry, but we have to increase efficiency because the number of service personnel is not increasing."

The 1st Deputy Minister of Defence was then complemented by the Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. She is quite logical. Some kind of deferred need or just-in-time logistics and the application of some civilian standards to supply and logistics in the army does not and cannot apply, because the army is preparing for the worst scenarios and for emergencies, and for us, efficiency is not that we save money and have as little as possible in the warehouses and have only what is necessary at that moment. For us, the efficiency is that when a crisis comes and the tasks that we pay the military to do come up, the military will be able to function. And the lessons of conflict shape us. After all, we're having that discussion in the Alliance at the military level as well. What we see today is that operational capability is not just about quality, but it's a combination of quality and quantity and sufficient supplies. We see that in any conflict of a larger scale, of greater intensity, that will last for a longer period of time, technological advantage over the adversary is important. It gives us some window of opportunity, but ultimately it's always about logistics, endurance, that you have something to shoot from, you have something to shoot with, and you're able to operate and sustain military units. I look much more at arming the military that way going forward. I'm going to be far less interested in us acquiring some limited number of very sophisticated things from some exotic destination, but I'm going to be far more interested in us being interoperable. So that I know that what we buy will always be functional. We will be able to keep it running, we will be able to upgrade and modernise it and we will have guaranteed security of supplies, spare parts, ammunition and other things," Lieutenant General Karel Rehka, Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, told CZ DEFENCE.

Foto:  „Operační kapacita není jenom o kvalitě, ale je to kombinace kvality i kvantity a dostatečných zásob,“ řekl pro CZ DEFENCE genpor. Karel Řehka | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE
Picture: "Operational capacity is not only about quality, but it is a combination of quality and quantity and sufficient supplies," said Gen. Karel Řehka | Jan Zilvar / CZ DEFENCE

 Author: Jan Zilvar

We cooperate withEN - LEXEN - AOBP