Czech state enterprises to take part in U.S. helicopter deal |

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Czech state enterprises to take part in U.S. helicopter deal

Czech state enterprises to take part in U.S. helicopter deal

The Czech Military Technical Institute (VTU) and the LOM Praha aircraft repairer, both state enterprises, will take part in the planned contract for a U.S. helicopters supply, military and Defence Ministry officials told the lower house Defence Committee meeting today.

The contract for the Bell company's H-1 system, consisting of four AH-1Z Viper combat helicopters and eight UH-1Y Venom multipurpose helicopters, will cost 14.5 billion crowns (17.6 billion including VAT), the ministry decided in August.

In 2023, the new helicopters are to replace Czech Air Force's current Mi-24/35s. They should be fully operational by 2026.

Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar (for ANO) today said the new helicopters should mainly boost the Czech helicopter squadron's capability of providing direct air support for ground operations.

Moreover, the acquisition will reduce the Czech military's dependence on Russia, he said. "Further operation of Russian aircraft is financially ineffective and at variance with the plans of the Czech military development," Metnar said.

The ministry will purchase the helicopters directly from the American government. Deputy minister and the ministry's armaments and acquisitions section head Filip Riha said the conditions of the purchase are the same as those the supplier applies to the U.S. Armed Forces and that he expects the contract to be signed by the end of the year. The critics of the contract note that Italy's Leonardo company offered its own 12 helicopters for a significantly lower price.

Riha countered by saying that the Czech military requested battle-tested military helicopters, a requirement that does not apply to the Leonardo aircraft.

Furthermore, Leonardo was unable to meet Prague's requirements concerning the helicopter equipment, he said, while Chief-of-Staff Ales Opata noted that Leonardo offered a machine that originally was not developed for military purposes.

"A militarised civilian helicopter's parameters are incomparable," Opata added. Negotiations on the extent of the Czech defence industry's involvement in the helicopter deal are still underway.

Metnar said today that LOM Praha will be in charge of the helicopters' maintenance, more sophisticated services, modernisation and repairs, while VTU will be responsible for the integration of the helicopters' operational systems with the air force command and for the protection of classified information.

Apart from LOM Praha and VTU, there will also be "considerable space" for other Czech firms' participation, Riha said.

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