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Právo: Czech state-run military companies make profit

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Prague, Feb 11 (CTK) – All Czech military firms markedly increased their profits in 2016 and the training of foreign pilots has become a good business for the Defence Ministry, daily Pravo wrote on Saturday.

The whole word is arming itself and training troops, and arms makers make higher and higher profits, the paper writes.

Military state-controlled firms run by the Czech Defence Ministry were successful last year as well.

LOM Praha, which specialises in repairs of military helicopters, increased its profit by 130 percent in 2016, to almost 100 million crowns, Deputy Defence Minister Tomas Kuchta told Pravo.

To a great extent, this was thanks to the Aviation training centre in Pardubice, east Bohemia, he said.

This centre, which operates within LOM, originally provided training of Czech pilots, but step by step pilots from all over the world have been coming to undergo the training.

Afghan pilots have been trained in the centre for four years and the training costs are covered by the U.S. military.

Thai pilots of Gripen fighters, Nigerian pilots of Russian-made Mi- helicopters and Iraqi pilots of Czech-made L-159 combat aircraft also train in Pardubice.

“This is definitely good business. We want to invest in the centre and the accommodation facilities so that even the most demanding clients can come,” Kuchta said.

He said the flight simulators used for training in Pardubice are so good that the Swedes want to send pilots, whom they do not have time to train, to the Czech Republic.

The simulators are produced by a subsidiary, LOM VR Group.

LOM still mainly focuses on the repairs of Russian-made helicopters Mi-8, Mi-17 and Mi-34 used by the Czech military.

Kuchta said the biggest problem has been the reliance on the supply of Russian components. He said sometimes spare parts are delivered only after three years because “the Russians play some sort of game.”

LOM also repairs helicopters for the Kenyan police and for Algerian security forces.

Another key state-controlled firm is VOP CZ from Novy Jicin, north Moravia. Two years ago, the firm was in the red, but last year it made an untaxed profit of 38 million crowns, thanks to work on armoured vehicles for a company from the United Arab Emirates.

So far, about 300 armoured vehicles were exported to the Emirates and the cooperation is expected to continue, Kuchta said.

VOP is of key importance for the Czech army because it is the only company in the country that can repair land vehicles. The company is likely to be repairing 35 T-74M tanks and taking part in the production of Pandur armoured vehicles made by Tatra in Koprivnice, north Moravia.

Kuchta said the army will not need VOP very much for three years now, but then it will start buying tracked infantry fighting vehicles and the firm should be involved in their production.

The Military Technology Institute (VTU) and the Military Research Institute (VVU) were also profitable last year and they have work to do this year, too, Kuchta told the paper.

After a long time, all the Defence Ministry’s firms were profitable. Kuchta said this is not only because of the worsened security situation in the world, but also because of a changed strategy. “We returned to the idea that we must be self-sufficient and secure everything at home, ideally from a state-run company,” he said.

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