The Višegrad group states have signed a memorandum on closer cooperation between their air forces. The pledge was sealed at the 10th annual NATO days in Ostrava said to be the biggest air, military and security show in Central Europe. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary agreed to maximize interactions between their air forces and promote joint training opportunities for their pilots with an emphasis on more across-the-border training and shared know-how from foreign missions. The NATO days in Ostrava attracted close to a hundred thousand visitors. One of the biggest attractions this year is the legendary heavy strategic bomber B-52 Stratofortress of the United States Air Force.
Tens of thousands of people attended the 10th annual NATO days at Ostrava’s Mosnov Airport over the weekend. The two day event is slated to be the biggest air, military and security show in Central Europe with military hardware exhibitions, police and rescue technology and dynamic shows of special units. One of the biggest attractions this year is the legendary heavy strategic bomber B-52 Stratofortress of the United States Air Force.
Petr Nečas is beginning his first visit to Brussels since being appointed Czech prime minister at the end of June. On Wednesday evening Mr Nečas will hold talks with the president of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, and the commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn. During a three-day visit to Brussels, the Czech prime minister will also take part in a European Union summit and meet the secretary general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The Czech government has rejected an opposition call for a parliamentary investigation into alleged corruption linked to purchases by the Ministry of Defence. A Czech newspaper this week reported that a former head of Nato had warned Czech officials that the country risked tarnishing its reputation over the background to the purchase of armoured personnel carriers, while the police are currently investigating a former deputy defence minister over alleged bribe-taking linked to a contract for mortars. MP Petr Gadzík of coalition party TOP 09 told reporters that the opposition Social Democrats’ call for an investigation was motivated by upcoming Senate and local elections.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has just been to NATO’s Brussels headquarters bearing mixed news about the government’s intentions. On the one hand it wants to quickly downsize its contribution to the ongoing peace mission in Kosovo, but on the other it is offering a bigger presence in Afghanistan.
The Czech Army, which went fully professional five years ago, is preparing major changes in military rank, which will mainly affect lower-level officers. Under an amendment passed last year, on January 1 the army will reintroduce ranks from private to sergeant, mirroring armies in fellow NATO countries. But the changes mean that some 14,000 Czech soldiers will suffer demotion.
Following talks with the prime minister on Tuesday, Defense Minister Alexander Vondra announced a planned overhaul of the country’s defense structures. The new concept is being drafted by a team of experts led by the former chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy. The planned changes should reflect the country’s defense needs – taking into account both the size of the Czech Republic and its location as well as its membership in NATO.
The Czech company LOM Praha has won a NATO public tender worth 250 million Czech crowns to modernize two Hungarian and two Bulgarian helicopters of the type Mi-17. The modernization of one such helicopter takes about six months. Czech Television reported on Sunday that this is the first step toward a complete overhaul of all Russian-built helicopters in use in NATO member states. LOM Praha is the only company in the NATO that has a license to repair helicopters built in Russia, some 200 of which are still in use today. Whether the company will be able to win a tender to repair all of these helicopters is doubtful. Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra has said that the fight for such a tender would be a tough one.
An “early warning center” that the United States are planning to build
on Czech territory as part of a NATO missile defense system could be
functional by mid-2011. Minister of Defense Alexandr Vondra said in a
program on Czech Television on Sunday that the project will be partly
financed by the government starting in 2012. Local soldiers will be
operating the warning center after being trained by American forces. Mr
Vondra added that while the Czech Republic had its own surveillance and
defense systems for air space, they were not equipped to register activity
in more remote locations such as the Middle East. The United States have
earmarked 38 million Czech crowns or USD 2 million to be put into the
construction of the “early warning center” in 2011 and 2012.
President Barack Obama last year announced the dropping of plans for an American anti-missile shield that would have included a radar base in the Czech Republic.
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