Although the official numbers will only be released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in several months’ time, all indications are that 2016 was a very good year for the Czech arms industry. The financial daily E15 reported that exports will now have gone up for four years straight, in part influenced by the sale and lease of Czech L-159 fighter jets. Jan Velinger spoke to Jiří Hynek, the head of the Defense and Security Association of the Czech Republic, asking him about the industry’s export profile.
“The L-159 fighter jets were very important for us in the past but they still represented only 15 percent of all exports in the Czech arms industry. About 60 percent of exports are in aviation, 30 percent is in military vehicles, and the rest are rifles, ammunition and other firearms, electronic systems and so on. There is no single product which would dominate – they are all important facets that make up our export.”
Czech firms generally have a very good reputation when it comes to defense, security, arms manufacture, correct?
“They do and reputation is important, of course. One factor which is an opportunity for us is the security situation around the world. Security is rapidly falling and that offers our firms the chance to respond. Many people are afraid of enemies, of terrorism, and so on. That said, we cannot achieve good export results without good quality, good reputation and lots of hard work leading to good products.”
What are some specific products or firms who could be highlighted that have played a role?
“The kind of flagship is a passive surveillance system from Era. It does not represent a large slice of our exports but it is important because the system is very sophisticated and cannot be detected and is proof of what the firm can do. Another important product is Aero Vodochody’s new L-39 NG or New Generation. And then you have production of rifles, pistols, and other firearms by Česká zbrojovka. They are all important.”
How large a percentage of exports are to the US, given that to the EU and NATO countries it is between 10 – 30 percent?
“In 2015, the US was second and we hope that for 2016, when the numbers are all tabulated, it will be first. I believe that the combination of well-built products combined with a good price make us attractive for the US market.”