Czechs Replacing Their Airlift Fleet
The Czech Republic’s armed forces aren’t large enough to make large foreign commitments, but the country is a frequent participant in NATO missions abroad, and needs airlift capacity for use during domestic emergencies. It currently depends on Soviet-era AN-26 “Curl” aircraft, which are wearing out quickly, and will need to be replaced soon.
“Czech L-159s: Cheap to Good Home” explored one possibility, which involved a trade of the Czechs’ fine light trainer and attack aircraft, in exchange for EADS-CASA C-295M light transports to replace the AN-26s. That turned out to be the Czechs’ preferred option, and a contract for 3 planes was signed in 2009. The EU couldn’t be content to leave well enough alone, of course, and they began legal action around the deal. That went nowhere, but their efforts may not be the only legal action. Technical problems, and allegations of overpricing, have triggered an investigation within the Czech Republic. Even as the C-295Ms themselves remain undeployable.
Contracts & Key Events
Oct 30/13: Accepted. EADS release:
“A Czech Republic delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of Defence Mr. Libor Karasek has confirmed the acceptance of four Airbus Military C295 transport aircraft.”
Dec 1/12: C-295Ms. The Czechs are still having serious problems with Omnipol’s DAS defensive systems for their C-295M fleet. The contract required an operational DAS in July 2011, but the system just failed tests again.
The Czech Ministry of Defense reportedly doesn’t want to turn to another provider, and has given Omnipol another year to produce systems that will pass their tests. Meanwhile, the C295s can’t deploy to operational theaters like Afghanistan. Prague Daily Monitor.
July 18/12: Charged. Czech anti-corruption police charge former defence minister Vlasta Parkanova with breach of trust and abuse of public office in connection with the purchase of CASA C-295M planes for the Czech military.
Parkanova was defence minister in 2007-2009, when the contract was placed, and subsequent reports confirm that the charges also extend to her deputy Jiri Stanek. According to the police, the CASAs were overpriced by CZK 658 million (about $34 million). Prague Daily Monitor.
July 3/12: C-295Ms. The deal for 4 C-295M transports continues to be plagued with delays and technical trouble. The planes failed military tests last year, and defects in the navigation and communication systems were finally resolved in May 2012. That cleared them for use as transport planes, but Afghanistan is still off-limits because EADS’ DAS defensive systems failed recent tests in 7/17 areas.
The ministry is now negotiating with Airbus Military and Omnipol to remove the defects. Further penalties are possible, beyond the January 2012 agreement to return one of the L-159 light attack planes. That plane is due to return some time in July 2012.
Meanwhile, the Czech police have reportedly asked the Chamber of Deputies to open the door to charges against former defence minister Parkanova, regarding alleged overpricing of the contract by CZK 658 million crowns. According to reports, the department didn’t even have an expert opinion on the planes’ price worked out. This puts them in the same boat as Canada’s C$ 16+ billion F-35A buy, but apparently the rules are tougher over there. Prague Daily Monitor.
Dec 22/10: C-295Ms. A ceremony at Prague-Kbely’s 24 Air Transportation Base marks the formal induction of 4 CASA C-295M aircraft into operation, replacing the Czech Republic’s AN-26s. The Czech MoD release adds that:
“According to outgoing commander of the base Colonel Josef Bejdak, notwithstanding all troubles accompanying the acquisition, the aircraft are on the ground and they will contribute to higher transportation safety.”
Sept 13/10: KC-390s? The Brazilian and Czech Ministries of Defence sign an agreement for Aero Vodochody a.s. to cooperate with Embraer on the KC-390. The firm has considerable experience in aerostructure manufacturing, and the Czech defense ministry believes they could end up manufacturing the KC-390’s rear fuselage, doors, and wing leading edges
Specific terms are expected to be signed by the end of 2010, and the Czech Republic is reportedly looking to buy up to 2 KC-390s as a complement to their C-295M fleet. The jet-powered KC-390 is a step up from the C-295Ms. It sits in the same class as the American C-130 Hercules, with a capacity of around 20 tonnes. Aero Vodochody | Aviation Week | Brahmand | Flight International.
May 5/10: The EU’s European Commission:
“The Commission is concerned that the Czech Republic has breached EU public procurement rules by not opening up to EU-wide competition a contract for four military tactical transport aircraft… The Commission’s request to the Czech Republic takes the form of a reasoned opinion. If the national authorities do not reply satisfactorily within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice… According to the European public procurement Directive 2004/18/EC, the award of public contracts must be made on the basis of an EU-wide tender procedure… The Czech authorities considered that no public tendering procedure would be necessary as the aircraft would be used mainly for military missions of the Czech Republic, i.e. for the protection of essential security interests of the State. However, a Member State can elect not to carry out this procedure only if the tendering procedure as such would present a risk for its essential security interests… As no satisfactory reply was provided on why launching a tender procedure would present a risk to the protection of essential security interests of the State, the Commission has decided to proceed to the second stage of the formal infringement procedure…”
Under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) Member States receive a letter of formal notice seeking information, then a reasoned opinion requiring the Member State to comply with EU law within 2 months. If there is no satisfactory reply, the Commission can refer the matter to the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. If the Court rules against a Member State and the Member State does not comply, the EC can also request that the Court impose a fine.
April 20/09: C-295Ms. Under a preliminary agreement with EADS, the Czech government will buy 3 C-295Ms, and exchange 5 L-159s for a 4th aircraft. Flight and ground maintenance training are included in the package, and the deal has been approved by the resigning Czech government. The ministry has reportedly set aside CZK 3.5 billion ($73 million equivalent) for the whole project, with delivery expected between 2009 – 2011.
Later revelations placed the contract’s value at EUR 132 million. Czech MoD [in Czech] | EADS | Ceske Noviny [English] | Reuters | UPI.
Ceske Noviny adds that the Defense Ministry is negotiating with the USA for 4 C-130 Hercules medium tactical transports, with the aim of buying 2 in flyable condition and 2 as a source of spares. This implies that the aircraft would be used C-130E/H models, rather than the new C-130J. The US military recently delivered the first of 5 refurbished C-130Es to Poland.