Air Platforms

Czechs plan new light helicopter purchase

09 April 2014
The new helicopters will replace the Army of the Czech Republic's Mil Mil-24 'Hind' and W-3 Sokol helicopters. Source: Army of the Czech Republic

The Army of the Czech Republic (ACR) announced plans on 9 April to acquire up to 16 new light, multi-purpose helicopters between 2016 and 2020.

The new helicopters will primarily replace the country's Mil Mi-24/35 'Hind' combat support helicopters and PZL W-3 Sokol MEDEVAC/SAR helicopters.

"We do not want to replace the Mi-24/35 fleet with comparable platforms as they are too expensive to operate and maintain, instead we would prefer to use a smaller number of lighter, multi-role platforms", said Lieutenant General Petr Pavel, Chief of General Staff of the ACR on 9 April.

The new light, multi-purpose helicopters will serve in the armed combat support; light troop transport and MEDEVAC/SAR roles according to Gen Pavel.

Pavel would not specify what specific platform is being sought by the ACR, but said that it would be in a class slightly smaller than the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. Pavel added the ACR is currently evaluating approximately six manufacturers who offer a light helicopter in this class.

The ACR plans to retire its fleet of Russian Mil Mi-24/35 helicopters between 2016 and 2018, when some of the aircraft reach the end of their operational service life while the remainder would require costly mid-life upgrades (MLUs).

"We do not plan to retain these aircraft in our inventory beyond this period because we simply will not have the resources to upgrade and maintain them", said Gen Pavel.

Gen Pavel also ruled out the possibility of replacing the Mi-24/35 fleet with new attack helicopters in the class of the Boeing AH-64 Apache.

"Given the size of our military budget, such an acquisition (of modern attack helicopters) would mean sacrificing our entire budget set aside for aircraft operations", Pavel said.

Pavel added that the cost of upgrading one PZL W-3 Sokol airframe is the same as that for two Mil Mi-17 medium transport helicopter airframes.

The Czech Ministry of Defence (MoD) received allocated funds from the caretaker government led by Jiri Rusnok in late 2013 to proceed with a modernisation of the ACR helicopter fleet.

Defence minister Martin Stropnicky has said the MoD must decide by mid-2014 whether to announce a tender or select a specific helicopter in order to meet the 2016 retirement date for the Mi-24/35 fleet.



(372 words)
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