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US or Italy to supply helicopters to Czech military

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Washington, May 2 (CTK) – The United States or Italy will supply 12 helicopters to the Czech military, Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) told his U.S. counterpart James Mattis on Tuesday, the Czech ministry’s spokesman Jan Pejsek has told CTK.

Stropnicky also spoke about the raising of the Czech defence budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2025, Pejsek said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called on NATO member countries to spend the 2 percent of their GDP which they pledged when entering the Alliance.

The Czech Republic like a majority member countries is not fulfilling the goal. Its spending now ranges around 1 percent of GDP.

Stropnicky said the Czech spending may be raised to 1.4 percent of GDP by 2020 as the incumbent government coalition has pledged.

The government, “in whatever regime” it may continue, must prepare a draft state budget for 2018 and budget outlooks for another two years.

He was hinting at Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s (Social Democrats, CSSD) statement yesterday that he will hand in his coalition government’s resignation over Finance Minister Andrej Babis’s (ANO) doubtful business and financial transactions by the weekend.

In them, the spending of 1.4 percent of GDP is embedded.

“This means that by 2024, or 2025, we will attain this (2 percent of GDP spending goal) and we will attain it gradually, which means that we will not overheat the acquisition process. This is very important. And it is also important that the U.S. side comprehends this,” Stropnicky said.

The multipurpose helicopters are to cost several billion crowns. The Czech Defence Ministry wants to place the order based on an inter-government agreement.

According to previous information, the helicopters could be supplied to the Czech military by the U.S. Bell or Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, or the Italian-British concern AgustaWestland.

Other bidders were the French Airbus Helicopter, the Korean Airspace Industries and the German division of Airbus concern.

Stropnicky said his ministry has already sent a letter to Italy and the United States.

“Now, it will last about four months because the letters arouse a series of very precise questions and the price is naturally also very important,” he said.

Stropnicky said the political dimension is another important aspect and he also said it is necessary that the helicopters fulfill the soldiers’ demands.

He said the order is not unimportant for the United States because it would create 500 new jobs in Texas.

Stropnicky said Mattis confirmed that the Czech military has a good reputation due to deployment in foreign missions and the soldiers’ reliability.

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