The Czech army launched its new 533 Unmanned Systems Battalion on Thursday. Currently the country’s armed forces operate a number of small drones, but according to Chief of the General Staff Aleš Opata, the army will soon buy at least one larger, heavier unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), capable of both reconnaissance and combat.
The Czech Army wants to buy at least one large combat drone for its new
Unmanned Systems Battalion, Chief of the General Staff Aleš Opata said in
Prostějov on Thursday at a ceremony marking the creation of the new army
The combat drone, an unmanned machine weighing several hundred kilograms will complement the already used smaller drones.
The Unmanned Systems Battalion which will have up to 300 members should start operating in October of this year and become fully operational by 2025.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Defence Ministry officials have moved to quell concerns over the security of Czech soldiers and police officers serving in Iraq. The general chief of staff said precautions had been taken to ensure the safety of the 40-member-strong Czech team and an emergency evacuation plan was in place should the need arise.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic is not at present
considering withdrawing its troops from Iraq. Speaking on a visit to
Olomouc, Mr. Babiš confirmed an earlier statement from the General Staff
of the Czech Army that none of the country’s soldiers had been harmed
during overnight rocket attacks on two US bases in Iraq.
A Czech Ministry of Defence spokesman said no Czech soldiers had been stationed at the bases.
Iran said the strikes had been in retaliation for the killing last week of its military commander Qassem Suleimani.
A spokesperson for the Czech Army said its troops had halted exercises and were remaining at their bases, adding that it would await a decision on how to proceed from NATO command.
Almost 40 Czech soldiers are taking part in a NATO mission in Iraq and five Czech police officers are serving as instructors in Bagdad.
Amidst growing tension over the latest developments in the Middle East, following the killing of Iran’s military leader Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, the Czech foreign minister has joined calls for a level-headed approach to the crisis, warning that a further escalation of tension will not only destabilize the region, but put at risk the progress made in the war on terror.
With the arrival of the New Year, the Czech Army has deployed 1,000
soldiers to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the army said in
a statement on Thursday. The Czech soldiers will be on alert for the
entirety of 2020 and must be able to take action in a crisis situation
within five days.
Commander Petr Blecha said the Czechs had been preparing intensively to play a role in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force since 2018. The task force was created following the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Minister of Defence Lubomír Metnar (for ANO) is due to finalise the Czech
Army purchase of twelve US helicopters on Thursday following talks with his
American counterpart, Mark Esper.
The ministry has agreed to buy eight utility UH-1Y Venom helicopters and four AH-1Z attack Viper helicopters from Bell for 14.6 billion crowns. They are due for delivery in 2023.
Bell was chosen over a cheaper option due to its offer of greater cooperation with Czech firms, especially state-owned LOM Praha, which maintains Soviet-era Mi-24 helicopters.
Metnar said last month the contract includes equipment, ammunition, spare parts and training of the personnel and best meets Czech needs.
The Czech Republic will increase its contribution to the NATO budget by
about ten percent as of next year, the CTK news agency reported, citing
defence ministry sources.
The country is currently contributing 580 million crowns and should pay around 620 million as of 2020.
NATO member states agreed to increase their individual contributions after the US, which had been contributing the lion’s share for years, announced it would be lowering its input.
The funding of the alliance and defence spending will be the main focus of an upcoming NATO summit in London next week.
The Czech Republic will be represented by President Miloš Zeman, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar and Czech Ambassador to NATO Jakub Landovský.
Charges have been dropped against four Czech Army officers in connection with the mysterious death of an Afghan, the news site Ekonomický Deník reported. The individual concerned, Wahidullah Khan, seems to have been responsible for shooting Czech dead soldier Tomáš Procházka in Shindand, Afghanistan last year.
A Czech soldier killed in Afghanistan last year has been awarded the US
Bronze Star Medal in memoriam. The Bronze Star Medal, one of the highest US
decorations for bravery in a combat zone, was presented to Tomáš
Procházka’s close family by an embassy representative on Friday.
Corporal Tomáš Procházka, a specialist in training dogs, was shot dead in October 2018 while returning from a routine mission outside his base in Herat Province.