Friday, 18 April 2014

LN: Czech military eyes U.S. Black Hawk helicopters

ČTK |
28 November 2012

Prague, Nov 27 (CTK) - The Czech military is interested in the purchase of the U.S. Black Hawk helicopters that are to replace its mostly Soviet-made machines, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday.

The maintenance costs of the helicopters used by the Czech military are too high, this is the reason for the new plan, LN writes.

"We will opt for smaller, multipurpose machines to be used for the transportation of the wounded and a small number of people as well as fulfilment of supportive tasks including fire," Czech chief of staff Petr Pavel is quoted as saying.

This can be offered by the U.S. Black Hawk, that "acted" in the film Black Hawk Down (2001), LN writes.

The military has admitted that it likes the helicopters, but a final response will only be given by a tender that must be put up by the defence ministry, it adds.

The Sikorsky UN-60 Black Hawk had its maiden flight in 1979 and it is the backbone of a number of militaries in many countries, including the USA, Japan and Turkey. Austria, too, uses it, LN writes.

The deal will be worth three to five billion crowns, for which the Czech military may acquire 20-30 helicopters, it adds.

Black Hawk's chances are increased by their cockpits being assembled by the Czech Aero Vodochody manufacturer, LN writes.

As a result, the deal would help the Czech industry, it adds.

Helplessness, this is the word best describing the state of the helicopter force now, LN writes.

"We do not have old machines, but the military simply refuses to invest anything in them," a military engineer is quoted as saying.

"We are able to do minor repairs, but if something bigger or an overhaul are needed, we simply drop it," he added.

The military will gradually decommission the squadron of MI-24/35 helicopters. Their fate is clear. The machines will be sold, LN writes.

The military does not have the money to invest tens of million crowns in costly overhauls, Pavel said.

The military command is of the view that the purchase of the new helicopters will materialise in 2015-2017, when the life span of most current helicopters expires, LN writes.

"It is reasonable to buy new helicopters. Old machines may have wonderful prices, but as soon as the first repair is needed, the costs rise dramatically," Pavel is quoted as saying.

The intention to acquire new helicopters was confirmed by former deputy defence minister and current Czech ambassador to NATO Jiri Sedivy a couple of months ago, LN writes.

"In the long run, the military will prefer the transition to the platform of some of the Western manufacturers," Sedivy has told the paper.

Now the military is planning to have a single type of helicopters, it adds.

"If helicopters are really needed, they should be able to fulfil a variety of tasks," Pavel said.

($1 = 19.507 crowns)

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