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The Slovak Ministry of Defence (MoD) has so far failed to secure the contract for procurement of 81 Vydra 8×8 wheeled armoured vehicles, which were designed by the local defence industry and Finnish Patria. The planned acquisition has stalled due to a number of difficulties, resulting in harsh criticism of the programme coming from the country’s political opposition.

The Slovak MoD was expected to finalize the procurement of a series of wheeled, armoured 8×8 vehicles in the first half of 2019. The ministry’s decision was expected shortly after conclusion of all tests and trials of a prototype Vydra 8×8, which were to evaluate the platform’s operational capabilities in different terrain and climate conditions. Tests of the vehicle were conducted over the past months on different sites in Slovakia and Finland.

The programme, which budget was set at approx. €417 million, has been withheld due to harsh criticism it faced from the country’s political opposition. The opposition questions the cost of the acquisition as well as unilateral decision to select the Patria AMV platform for the future wheeled, armoured vehicles of the Slovak Army. Furthermore, it has already been noted by local media, that the Office for Public Procurement (UVO), which controls the execution of public tenders in Slovakia, and verifies if they are carried out in accordance with the country’s law, monitors the planned acquisition and does not exclude taking appropriate actions if it finds any irregularities in the procurement procedure.

At this moment it seems unlikely that the Slovak MoD will make the decision about procurement of Vydra 8×8 vehicles anytime soon. Especially due to the general elections, which are to take place early 2020 and might shift the balance of power in the country’s parliament leading to the creation of a new government.

New authorities might wish to evaluate all procurement programmes launched by the current MoD’s leadership, and might eventually even cancel or re-launch the ones, which it currently objects. Therefore, signing of a contract for Vydra 8×8 at this moment seems pointless from the political point of view.

The planned procurement of new armoured 8×8 vehicles is part of a larger modernization plan of the Slovak Army, which also includes the acquisition of 424 multirole tactical 4×4 vehicles at a cost of €321 million. However, also this programme faces legal and political challenges, mostly due to accusations made by the country’s opposition parties, which suggest that tender requirements had been set in favour of a specific manufacturer.

Michal Jarocki