The Czech Defence Ministry has announced plans to acquire a new anti-aircraft radar system to replace obsolete Soviet-era equipment, according to Radio Prague.
The ministry will reportedly pursue the acquisition independently, abandoning plans to develop a new air defence radar system together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
According to the report, the Czech Defence Ministry is planning to acquire five mobile 3D radiolocators by 2017, with costs estimated at between 1.5 and 1.7 billion crowns, or between 69 and 78 million US dollars, ministry spokesman Petr Medek told the news website iDnes.cz on Tuesday. These should replace the Soviet-made P-37 radars from the 1970s and PRV-17 altimeters built in the 1980s.
A public tender should be held as soon as possible, according to the ministry. The winner will have to have “strong ties” to the Czech Republic, Mr Medek said, adding that the ministry will insist that Czech defence industry participate in the project.
Czech and Slovak firms had begun developing a new radilocator called ReUNION which they believed could become the basis of a system developed along with Hungary and Poland as part of the Visegrad Group’s defence cooperation.
However, the project was cast into doubt when the Financial Times reported earlier this month that Poland was considering pulling out, arguing that smaller members of the Visegrad Group had little to contribute to the project.
The Financial Times quoted a Czech defence official as saying that the country had two options – to proceed with Hungary and Slovakia, or to open the project to an external tender. On Wednesday, it became clear the ministry had chosen the latter option.
The Czech Defence Ministry, however, blamed the failure of the defence project on the individual countries’ disagreement on acquiring the jointly developed system. “The countries were able to agree on the specification of the system but not buying it”, Mr Medek said.
The Czech company Retia, which participated on the ReUNION radar project, said it would like to take part in the tender. “We suppose the ministry will require that parts of the radar will be developed in the Czech Republic. We also hope the conditions of the will not favour foreign companies,” Retia CEO Petr Novák told the news website iDnes. cz.