Czech companies engaged in research, development, production, trade and marketing of the military and security equipment, along with related services are associated within the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic (DSIA); this was established in 1997 as a non-governmental, independent, apolitical, non-profit organisation. DSIA supports the pro-export efforts of its member companies and helps them to look for new markets. It also participates in the shaping of the Czech pro-export policy and supports the export interests of its members towards the Czech state administration.
Today, DSIA brings together nearly 130 Czech companies involved not only in the production of military vehicles and aircraft, small arms, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) protection systems, combat clothing and personal equipment, military electronics and communication systems but also in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, computer information systems, research and development. Almost 90 per cent of the production is sold abroad. In 2019, defence industry companies from the Czech Republic exported goods and services in the value of €619.29M which accounted for roughly 1 per cent of military-related exports from the European Union.
The dominant player is Czechoslovak Group (CSG), a holding company with some 8,100 employees whose sales reached more than €566M in 2020. Except for enterprises with civilian-oriented portfolios, CSG includes today some of the vital Czech defence companies such as Excalibur Army, Tatra Trucks, Tatra Defence Vehicle and Retia. Its foreign branch is organised within MSM Group with businesses including MSM Martin, MSM Banská Bystrica, MSM Nováky, MSM Land Systems, ZVS and VÝVOJ Martin based in Slovakia, as well as 14. Oktobar in Serbia and FMGranada in Spain. In addition, CSG is currently in the process of establishing a joint venture company with Rheinmetall. The enterprise will develop and produce tactical military vehicles and will be placed in Kopřivnice. While CSG will put its production capacity into the project, the Germans will bring actual contracts.
An important part of the Czech defence industrial base is constituted of four enterprises owned by the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. The biggest of which are LOM Praha in Prague and VOP CZ in Šenov near Nový Jičín, each with approximately 850 employees.
The former provides repairs, general overhauls, lifecycle support and upgrades of Mi-8/17/171/24/35 helicopters and L-39C ALBATROS jet trainers. The recent projects include general overhauls of Mi-17 and Mi-24/35 helicopters for the Czech Air Force (CzAF) as well as Mi-17V-5 helicopters for Ghana and Afghanistan and modernisation of Mi-17s for Burkina Faso. The essential role plays the upgrade of seven Mi-171Š helicopters of the CzAF into the advanced Mi-17ŠM version which is a product of in-house development.
Within the broader frame of the UH-1Y and AH-1Z acquisition programme for the CzAF, LOM Praha is preparing a concept of the centre of excellence that will provide the company with the ability to carry out comprehensive lifecycle support of H-1 helicopters, including training of aircrews and ground support personnel. The aim is to establish a closer relationship with Bell Textron Inc. that will go beyond the scope of the helicopters operated by the CzAF.
Simulation and Training
LOM Praha also operates Flight Training Centre (Centrum leteckého výcviku, CLV) at Pardubice airport that provides comprehensive and modular training programmes for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft pilots, flight engineers, ground crews and maintenance personnel. The aircraft fleet is primarily composed of Enstrom 480B-G and Mi-17 helicopters, Z-142CAF basic trainers, L-39C jet trainers, and L-410 light transport airplanes.
The core business of VOP CZ constitutes the development and production of tracked and wheeled military vehicles, along with repairs, refurbishments and upgrades of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) and engineer equipment.
Since 2012, the company has been developing the TAROS unmanned ground vehicle, the reconnaissance variant of which – UGV-Pz – was introduced into the Czech Army inventory in 2020. Between 2015 and 2017 VOP CZ manufactured 450 armoured cabs for AJBAN 440A light armoured vehicles of NIMR Automotive. From 2016 to 2020, the company, in cooperation with Kobit delivered 15 CAP-6M1 fuel trucks for the Czech Army. An additional seven CAPL-16M1 and two CNS aircraft refuellers for the CzAF will be delivered until November of this year.
In 2021, the company signed a contract for the supply of armoured vehicles for Achleitner from Austria. The deal includes both the supply of armoured cabins and the final assembly of entire vehicles. VOP CZ currently works on the update of all T-72M4 CZ tanks of the Czech Army. In addition, the company plays a crucial role in the Czech IFV programme in which it serves as the project integrator for the Czech industry, main subcontractor and future service authority for the vehicles of the Czech Army.
Vojenský technický ústav (VTÚ) with its headquarters in Prague is composed of three divisions based at Vyškov (Vojenský technický ústav pozemního vojska), Slavičín (Vojenský technický ústav výzbroje a munice) and Prague (Vojenský technický ústav letectva a protivzdušné obrany). VTÚ concentrates its activities on research and development of new weapon systems, C4ISTAR (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, Reconnaissance) systems, ammunition, armaments and equipment of the air and ground forces. Among the recent projects are, for example, SOM-6NG security guard and surveillance system for the Military Police, production of 10,000 60 mm HEI-LD mortar rounds for the Czech Army and the upgrade of the Czech Army communication architecture within the frame of NATO’s Federated Mission Networking.
The last state-owned enterprise is Vojenský výzkumný ústav (VVÚ) from Brno that focuses on research and development in three basic areas: CBRN protection, special electronics and camouflage (electronic intelligence, electronic warfare, multispectral camouflage systems) as well as materials engineering (metal and composite ceramic armour, passive and reactive armour). VVÚ currently carries out the development and delivery of the STARKOM mobile armoured jammer along with S-LOV-CBRN and S-LOV-CBRN II armoured vehicles for CBRN reconnaissance. The company simultaneously provides qualification testing of armoured vehicles against mine and IED threats according to STANAG 4569 and carries out theoretical and practical training of local and foreign personnel in CBRN protection. VVÚ also performs research and development of hard-kill active protection systems (project PAO for the Czech Army).
Unsurprisingly, the dominant player in this field is Česká zbrojovka (CZ) which is a member of Česká zbrojovka Group SE (CZG), one of the leading global manufacturers of firearms and tactical accessories for military and law enforcement, personal defence, hunting, sport shooting and other civilian uses. The current range of CZ’s military products comprises 9×19 mm NATO pistols (P-07, P-09, P-10 C, P-10 F), 9×19 mm NATO and 9×21 mm submachine guns (CZ SCORPION EVO 3 A1), 5.56x45mm and 7.62×39 assault rifles (BREN 2, CZ 807), 7.62×51 mm battle rifles (BREN 2 BR), 308 Win. sniper rifles (CZ TSR) and 40 mm grenade launchers (CZ 805 G1).
One of the most important recent deals for CZ was awarded by the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic in April 2020. The financial volume of the framework contract is up to CZK2.35Bn excluding VAT and by 2025 would see the Czech Army obtain more than 16,000 BREN 2 assault rifles (including 350 BREN 2 BRs), more than 21,000 P-10 pistols, more than 1,600 CZ 805 G1 grenade launchers and nearly 100 CZ SCORPION EVO 3 A1s, including related accessories and spare parts.
May 2021 was pivotal for the further development of the CZG since it successfully completed the acquisition of the American arms manufacturer Colt Holding Company LLC, including its subsidiaries Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC and Colt Canada Corporation.
The leading role in this segment is held by several companies from CSG holding. The portfolio of Excalibur Army (EA) is composed of wheeled armoured vehicles (PATRIOT I, PATRIOT II), 155 mm wheeled gun-howitzers (DITA and a new howitzer with L/52 barrel currently under development), 122 mm rocket launchers (RM-70 VAMPIRE), support vehicles (AM-50 EX and AM-70 EX bridge layers, DECON decontamination vehicle, TREVA-15 and TREVA-30 recovery vehicles, KAPA amphibious vehicle), as well as repairs and upgrades of Warsaw Pact era tanks, IFVs, howitzers and rocket launchers.
While three PATRIOT I vehicles were manufactured for Indonesian engineer troops, two PATRIOT IIs under the name TRITON were bought by the Fire Rescue Corps of the Czech Republic. The Indonesian Armed Forces also obtained more than 16 AM-50 EXs, two TREVA-15s and eight RM-70 VAMPIREs. On 22 February 2021, an agreement was signed between EA and PT Republik Defensindo for the joint production of the VAMPIRE rocket launchers on the T815-7 chassis in Indonesia. All vz. 77 howitzers of the Polish Army will be upgraded to the DANA M2 standard (under the name DANA-M) by local industry. Another 26 examples of the DANA M2 howitzer will be delivered to Ukraine.
Further Export Success
One of the youngest Czech defence industry companies is Tatra Defence Vehicle (TDV) based in Kopřivnice and operating since 2015. In 2020, TDV completed the delivery of 20 PANDURs IIs in KOVS and KOVVŠ versions for the Czech Army. The company is today the single manufacturer of Pandur II vehicles in 8×8 configuration. Thus, TDV currently produces 24 PANDURs for Indonesia together with an additional ten vehicles in the fire support variant with 105 mm gun for the Philippines. At the same time, TDV will produce 62 TITUS vehicles in KOVS, KOVVŠ and MKPP versions for the Czech Army. The armoured cabs for the T815-7 line of vehicles are also manufactured by TDV.
One of the oldest car manufacturers in the world, Tatra Trucks, needs no introduction. The company currently works on the production of 879 DAF CF military trucks (in fact versions of the T158 PHOENIX) for the Belgian Armed Forces. Tatra will deliver 636 trucks in a 4×4 chassis configuration and 243 vehicles in the 8×8 version. Of the total number of trucks, 352 vehicles will be fitted with armoured cabs developed and manufactured by TDV. In recent years, Tatra delivered almost 200 T815-2 trucks for the Indian Army in the form of complete knock-down (CKD) kits. Additional CKD sets for more than 400 trucks for the Indian military will be delivered in 2021 and 2022. Twenty-nine T815-7 chassis served as the basis for the M4K armoured recovery vehicles for the Turkish Army.
During this year, Tatra is completing the production of 37 T815-7 6×6 and 34 T810 6×6 cargo bed trucks along with 31 T815-7 8×8 container carriers for the Czech Army. The deliveries of T815-7 trucks for the NEPTUN anti-ship missile system and other Ukrainian radar and rocket systems are currently underway. Moreover, the T815-7 chassis serves as a basis for different armoured vehicles and self-propelled howitzers. A contract for the supply of 328 T815-7 4×4 chassis (primarily for AL-WAHSH armoured vehicles) was signed with the Jordanian customer in 2019.
Outside of the CSG holding,SVOS produces armoured conversions of commercial vehicles (such as Toyota LC200s for the United Nations) and is offering VEGA and PERUN multi-purpose armoured vehicles.
The traditional Czech producer of military, sport and hunting small arms ammunition is Sellier & Bellot that was founded already in 1825. Its law enforcement and military ammunition has been successfully delivered to more than 40 countries globally, especially to NATO members. The major success in recent years was winning the Scandinavian tender which includes the supply of training and special pistol ammunition to the police forces.
STV Group is the sole Czech producer of large-calibre artillery and tank ammunition. Its manufacturing plant at Polička also produces 9×19 mm Luger, 12.7×99 mm (.50BMG) and 12.7×108 mm ammunition, mortar rounds, as well as ammunition for RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers such as the TB-7V thermobaric round. Although the Czech Army is a regular customer, most of the production is exported. Besides, the STV’s facility at Polička is also used for the repairs of armoured vehicles and other heavy weapons such as vz. 70/85 rocket launchers and vz. 77 howitzers of the Polish Army or BVP-2 IFVs and vz.77s of the Czech Army. In 2019 and 2020, STV overhauled BMP-2 IFVs and T-55A tanks of the Uganda People’s Defence Force with the latter being equipped with explosive reactive armour blocks.
The company Zeveta Ammunition a.s is also active in the field of research, development, production, testing, defusing and destruction of ammunition. Among the products are 26.5 mm signal equipment, decoys for aircraft protection, the RPG-75 light anti-tank weapon, smoke grenades for armoured vehicles, hand grenades, flash and sound grenades, as well as detonators and imitation pyrotechnics.
The third oldest aircraft manufacturer in the world, Aero Vodochody Aerospace, has high hopes for its new L-39NG jet trainer. In 2018, Aero signed a contract for the delivery of four L-39NGs in light combat configuration to the Senegalese Air Force. In February 2021, the Vietnamese Ministry of Defence ordered 12 L-39NG airplanes including the training of pilots and ground crews, the supply of spare parts as well as equipment for ground and logistics support. LOM Praha plans to buy four L-39NG trainers for its CLV. At the same time, Aero wants to succeed with its new jet trainer in Slovakia. The company also performs overhauls and upgrades of legacy ALBATROS airplanes. In recent years, this process has involved, for example, L-39 aircraft of the Nigerian (three airplanes), Ethiopian, Kazakh and Uzbek Air Forces (six airplanes each). Moreover, Aero produces sub-assemblies (all doors, loading ramp, rear fuselage section) for Embraer C-390 MILLENIUM transport aircraft.
Aircraft Industries, the manufacturer of the TURBOLET light transport aircraft, delivered two L-410UVP-E20 in the maritime surveillance variant for the Polish Border Guard in October 2020. The company currently provides R2/R3 overhauls for the fleet of seven L-410s operated by the CzAF.
The young Czech company Primoco is the creator of the UAV One 150 unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle with a wingspan of 5 m and a maximum take-off weight of 150 kg. The airplane is certified according to STANAG 4703 and is completely developed and manufactured in the Czech Republic except for three components from Spain and Norway. The most active user of the UAV One 150 today is the Royal Malaysian Air Force which uses it for patrol missions in several areas along its sea and land borders. In 2021, Primoco plans to sign contracts for the delivery of 67 aircraft for 16 customers in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The company První brněnská strojírna (PBS) from Brno is also active in the field of UAVs with its line of turbojet engines. Particularly important is the TJ100 which has achieved worldwide success, having been sold in over 40 countries. Developed for UAVs, target drones, light sport aircraft and motor gliders, the TJ100 is a single-shaft powerplant with a single-stage radial compressor, annular combustion chamber, single-stage axial turbine, and stationary exhaust nozzle with a thrust of up to 1,250 N.
Radar and Passive Surveillance Systems
Several new radar technology companies were founded on the ruins of communist-era Tesla Pardubice. Among them are Retia, Eldis ERA and T-CZ, the former two are currently part of the CSG holding.
Retia develops, produces and upgrades radar systems along with C4I2 air defence systems. The company also provides electronics integration for PANDUR II and TITUS vehicles recently delivered or ordered for the Czech Army. In 2019, Retia delivered two upgraded 1S91 “STRAIGHT FLUSH” fire control and guidance radars for the US military which uses them as thread simulators. The company is currently upgrading the RACCOS air defence automated command and control fire distribution system of the CzAF. At IDEX 2021, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Jordan Design and Development Bureau which plans to integrate Retia’s ReGUARD which is a multi-purpose 3D radar for detecting and tracking ground objects and slow, low-flying targets with a small radar cross-section. In addition, Retia is directly participating in the acquisition of eight EL/M-2084 radars for the CzAF. The company provides support for the installation and integration of radars into certified information systems together with the production of DTRM and DRM modules.
Presently, ERA, well-known for its passive surveillance systems, works on the Czech Army’s order of two VERA-NG systems in the latest configuration that, among others, enables tracking of micro and mini UAVs at the range of more than 100 km. Among the latest customers of the VERA-NG are Indonesia, as well as Vietnam which use the container-based mast system of German company SMAG.
Optronics, Communication Systems and Electronic Warfare
EVPÚ Defence focuses its business activities on the development, design, production and service of electro-optical systems, pan tilt positioners, day-night and thermal imaging cameras, sights, as well as laser and radar irradiation detection systems. At the top of the portfolio are multi-sensor weapon station gunner sights of the CRANE series, CMS-1 panoramic commander sight and LAWAREC BRICK laser warning receiver for military vehicles. In April 2021, EVPÚ Defence signed a contract for the delivery of 11 GLADIUS remote weapon stations, which are assembled by the parent company EVPÚ in Slovakia, for LMV vehicles of the Czech Army.
Handheld, manpack, vehicular and base radios, as well as digital intercoms for light and heavy armoured vehicles are represented by products manufactured by MESIT from Uherské Hradiště. Vehicles introduced recently into the Czech Army inventory are usually equipped with VICM 200 intercoms.
In the area of electronic warfare, signals intelligence and C4ISTAR, the products and software solutions of URC Systems are crucially important for the Czech Army. Typical products include the STAR LIGHT 3 and STAR MANPACK series of protection jammers used by the Czech military.