Military


T-72 M3/M4 CZ Main Battle Tank

In addition to production in the USSR, the T-72 tank was built under license in Czechoslovakia, India, Poland and the former Yugoslavia. The Czech defence industry has launched a number of novelties, including the up-dated tank T-72 from VOP Nový Jicín. The Military Repair Company (VOZ), a government-owned company in north Moravia, coordinates the T-72CZ upgrade project. The upgraded T-72 M3/M4 CZ tank that featured an Italian fire- control system, a British powerpack and US transmission. The T-72MP battle tank is upgraded by KhKBM (Ukraine), PSP (Czech Republic), and SAGEM (France). The Czech General Staff has proposed the modernization of enough tanks to equip two mechanized brigades, approximately 130 tanks, with a new fire-control system. The Czech Republic is finding effective modernization of its armed forces difficult. The T-72 production would employ some 20 Czech firms and four foreign companies. This could also help the country's manufacturers get a jump on future T-72 remodeling business, as there are more than 20,000 of the Soviet machines operating worldwide.

In 1995, when the Czechs had left the Warsaw Pact but hadn't yet joined NATO, officials decided the most cost-effective solution was to upgrade their existing, but aging, Russian military equipment. A partnership among NIMDA [an Israeli company], General Motors and Perkins won the bid, and signed a deal to revamp 340 tanks. Perkins would supply the tanks' new engines, while GM would contribute the transmission mechanisms. But just one year after setting the deal in motion, the Czech Republic earned a spot in NATO. The government, which was heading into a time of recession, was reluctant to continue the financially demanding tank project.

In 1999 the company for repairs of military equipment (VOP) of Novy Jicin (Moravia) cancelled a contract with Officine Galileo (Italy) for the development and delivery of a firing command system for the modernized version of the T-72 assault tank. The Czechs accused the Italians of not having lived up to the contract for the command system. This setback in their cooperation with Officine Galileo brought the risk of delaying the project for the modernization of the Russian built T-72 tanks for a year or two.

In 2000, the Defense Ministry said it had decided to remodel only 140 of the 340 tanks. As of April 2000, the Deputy Defence Minister for Economics Jindřich Tomás stated that the first modernised T-72 tanks should appear within the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic in the next year at best. If the factory and service tests of the fire control system were successful, ten T-72 tanks should be adjusted within framework of a check-up series in 2001. It was due to the slow development of this system that the whole modernization project is in delay. If there are no other problems, a stabilised production regime of modernisation of the T-72 should start in 2002. Defence Ministry experts ought to finish an exact proposal of planned deliveries of the modernized tanks for ACR for the coming years by the end of April 2000. "The number of tanks has been basically fixed, there should be about 140 of them, more or less," said Tomás. Originally, ACR envisaged to have over 300 T-72 tanks modernized, for a total sum exceeding CZK 14 billion. According to the Concept of the build-up of the Armed Forces, the T-72 tanks should remain the only type in the equipment of ACR. The fire control system is being developed by the Italian defence company Officine Galileo. After certain difficulties, the Italians managed to bring the development to a close and start the tests.

In May 2001 the new Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik announced that the ministry's new management would examine other large contracts, such as those concerning hundreds of unusable parachutes, the modernization of T-72CZ tanks and the non-functional information system. In October 2001 Defense Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik announced that it would be necessary to reduce minor army activities, while making drastic cuts in Defense Ministry spending. "At present we have reevaluated the internal needs of our ministry, and we have decided to curtail the T 72 tank project, a move which should save 12 billion Czech crowns, which will help with reform and the strengthening of special army activities." The saved finances will help the army fulfill its NATO requirements, which further include strengthening the cooperation of intelligence services, and increased security at U.S. and NATO buildings.

With one upgraded T-72 costing $4 million, Repka said the remodeling of 140 tanks could be financed from selling some of the 540 outdated T-72 tanks currently owned by the army abroad. Countries from as far afield as Algeria, Malaysia and India have expressed interest in buying the tanks. In all, Czech is offering 270 T-72s for export.

In March 2002 representatives of the Czech Defence Ministry and businessmen held talks with their Algerian counterparts on Czech exports of military equipment to Algeria. Military material in question included radars, modernised tanks T-72 and armoured vehicles, as well as ammunition. Czech truck maker. In August 1997 the Czech cabinet had turned down a Defense Ministry proposal that the Czech Republic sell some of its T-72 tanks to Algeria. The proposal was swept off the table when all four ministers representing the Civic Democratic Alliance (ODA) in the cabinet and several members of the leading Civic Democratic Party (ODS) voted against it. ODA leader Michael Žantovský argued that selling the tanks could hurt the country's defense capabilities.







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