Purchase of US helicopters step into 21st century-chief of staff | info.cz

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Purchase of US helicopters step into 21st century-chief of staff

Purchase of US helicopters step into 21st century-chief of staff

The purchase of U.S. helicopters for the Czech military is a step into the 21st century and a significant progress in the army capabilities, Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar and Chief of Staff Ales Opata told CTK in Washington yesterday.

After the staff training, the helicopters will be deployed in foreign missions and operations, Opata added.

Metnar and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper will sign the contract of purchase later today.

The Czech Republic will buy eight 12 UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters and four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters with the H1 system for 14.6 billion crowns from the Bell firm in the form of an intergovernmental agreement.

The U.S. choppers, which the military is to get in 2023, will replace the Russian combat Mi-24s whose lifespan will soon expire.

Today's signing of the contract will crown an acquisition process lasting for more than five years, Metnar said. "It is a certain milestone in Czech-American relations," he noted.

The Czech military needs new helicopters as it is still using the Soviet-made ones, which causes problems with service, maintenance, spare parts supplies as well as interoperability in NATO or cooperation with allies, Metnar said. So this is a big step for the Czech army, he added.

Opata expressed the same view. "In my opinion, this is a step into the 21st century in terms of the Czech military capability since with the H1 system, the military is getting a very important skill for support of ground forces," he said, adding that he considers this a decisive move for the Czech helicopter force.

The new helicopters will improve the Czech military capabilities in support for ground and special forces and transport of soldiers and casualties not only within exercise, but also in missions, Metnar stressed.

Opata told reporters that soldiers cannot be deployed in current operations without helicopter support. Consequently, the military plans to deploy the new helicopters in action at the moment when the training is completed, he said, adding this would last from 12 to 18 months. The training will start before the supply of the helicopters, he added.

Some neighbouring countries are waiting for the helicopter tender's outcome and how the Czech military will succeed in integrating the new helicopters into its armament, Opata said.

"I think that the H1 concept has a potential for Central and Eastern Europe," he pointed out. Metnar will meet Esper in Pentagon at 20:00 CET. The contract has been completed and just the signature is to be added to it.

Along with the tender, Metnar and Esper will discuss further military cooperation in NATO and in their joint foreign missions, for instance, in Afghanistan. U.S. President Donald Trump recently said he would welcome the end of the lengthy Afghan conflict and this is why the USA is trying to strike a deal with Taliban radicals.

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