Czech Republic Focuses On Armament. BMP-2 Successor Expected Soon
Czech Army is in need of obtaining more funds (...) Most of the equipment here should be placed rather at the Lešany Military Museum, than be used by a combat unit – as the Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Andrej Babis, stated, when he visited the 7th Mechanized Brigade of the Czech Army. Babis also claimed that he plans to increase the defence expenditure, mainly in the light of the growing threats in the European region. All of the modernization programmes are to be realized at least in collaboration with the Czech defence industry.
Not only does the Czech government plan to increase its defence spending, financing modernization process related to the equipment, the soldiers may also expect a raise. The Army suffers from personnel problems – it is assessed that the army is understaffed – even 5 thousand more persons are needed to make the HR structure of the Czech Armed Forces complete. Meanwhile, until 2025, it is expected that the quantity of the troops is going to go up from 16600 to 24000. A few months ago, representatives of the three parties of the governing coalition have all signed a memorandum of understanding, regarding gradual increase of defence spending up to the level of 1.4% of GDP, which is planned to be achieved by 2020 (in 2014 the Czech defence expenditure was contained in an amount equal to 1.08% of the GDP).
Throughout the recent weeks, the government adopted a bill, the aim of which is to place 11 armament procurement orders, with a value of CZK 1.24 billion. These orders are going to be realized by the national industry. However, in most part, the above refers to ongoing purchases, modernization of the equipment and replacement of small arms. Nonetheless, many challenges of a nature which is far more serious than replacing the vz. 58 rifles with the CZ 508 BREN weapons, will have to be faced by the Czech authorities. Replacement of the post-Soviet equipment, and the equipment which is not compliant with the NATO standards, which cannot be effectively used on the contemporary battlefield, is one of the top priorities.
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The first phase of modernization is going to be realized by acquiring multi-role helicopters, and rotorcraft that would replace the Mi-8, Mi-24V/35 and Mi-17/171 helicopters, that are being operated at the moment. Modernization of the air defence systems includes replacement of the soviet-made radars with ten new 3D radars. The tender value, regarding the process above, is said to reach CZK 3.5 billion (USD 1.39 billion). Another important element of the modernization plan is going to focus on acquiring new infantry fighting vehicles, in order to replace the BVP-2 armoured vehicles (license-manufactured BMP-2), which are currently operated by the 7th Mechanized Brigade.
7th Mechanized Brigade is one of the two brigades of the Czech Land Forces, which is equipped with heavy hardware. The said brigade consists of two mechanized battalions (71st and 72nd), equipped with the BVP-2 vehicles, and a single armoured battalion (73rd), using the T-72M4 main battle tanks and the BVP-2 vehicles. The last element of the brigade is the 74th Light Motorized Battalion, using the Pandur 8x8 APCs.
There is no doubt about it – 7th Mechanized Brigade needs to be quickly re-equipped, particularly when it comes to replacement of the obsolete BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, all of which have been used and operated since 1984. (...) The recent authorization for the increase of the defence spending in the upcoming years, announced by the government, means that in the near future the Army is going to be able to start conceptual works, covering the modernization and implementation of the relevant changes until 2020.
Poland should take these declarations into account, and take a closer look at the realization of the above described process. Above all, this makes it possible to start a cooperation with the Czech Republic, within the scope of replacing the infantry fighting vehicles, since Poland is also in urgent need of replacing the older armoured stock of this type.
Secondly, it shall be noted that, in case of the Polish Army, the matter has even more burning nature, since the Polish BMP-1 vehicles are one generation older, than their Czech counterparts. The said vehicles have been introduced into use back in 1973, however, the general design dates back to the 1960s, meaning that the concept is one decade older than the Czech BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles. Usefulness of the BMP-1 vehicle on the contemporary battlefield is disputable, however it is clear that these vehicles are becoming more and more expensive in operational use. Owning 1000 vehicles of this type, replacement seems to be a burning issue.