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Czech army updates demands on new helicopters

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Prague, Feb 1 (CTK) – The Czech General Staff has submitted updated demands on the purchase of new multipurpose helicopters to Defence Minister Karla Slechtova who will decide how the tender will be organised, Chief-of-Staff Josef Becvar told journalists on Thursday.

Slechtova ordered the Czech military to specify their demands on the helicopters by the end of January. Becvar said she received the updated specification on Wednesday.

Defence Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said the ministry will not address only a single country.

Neither Pejsek nor Becvar would give any details on the updated demands.

“The specification is not a public document, it contains sensitive data. The basic parameters remain unchanged: we want to buy 12 helicopters that will be used for transport of people and equipment and for combat support of ground forces,” Pejsek said.

The new helicopters would replace the Russian-made combat Mi-24/35s.

Becvar said 41 of the 51 helicopters used by the Czech military were made in Russia.

He said the Central and East European countries of the former Soviet bloc try not to rely on Russian aircraft. “It causes enormous problems, spare parts are lacking. We are in fact captives of the Russian suppliers,” Becvar said.

According to previous estimates, the military would buy the helicopters for 10-15 billion crowns. The Czech governments addressed the U.S. and Italian governments in the past.

According to earlier statements, the U.S. government is to offer its UH-1Y helicopters from the firm Bell, while the Italian government is to offer the AgustaWestland AW139M helicopters from the firm Leonardo.

Slechtova said last week the bids that the Defence Ministry received within its marketing survey do not correspond to the set demands because they cannot be met. She challenged the idea that the Czech military would need something that is not on the market.

Becvar on Thursday rejected the opinion that the military’s demands were unrealistic. He said the demands correspond to the prospect that the helicopters will be used in the next 25 years. “This is no science fiction. Technologies are developed with immense speed and we cannot be a helicopter that meets the conditions of present combat,” he said.

“We know that such helicopters can be bought,” Becvar said.

The helicopters may be deployed in operations only after five to 15 years, he said.

Becvar also said he believes that the tender for the purchase of army radar systems from Israel would be prepared within a few weeks. The military should buy eight MADR 3D radars for 3.5 billion crowns from Israel to replace its outdated Soviet-made radars.

Former defence minister Martin Stropnicky decided last year to let his successor sign the contract. Slechtova had all big purchases checked. She said the Czech National Cyber Security Office (NUKIB) did not approve the MADR radars.

“I believe it is developing well. We are in contact with the national cyber security office,” Becvar said.

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