PRAGUE --- A military contract to purchase around a dozen helicopters is taking shape in the Czech Republic, iHned.cz reported on Thursday. The news site said the deal would be worth at least CZK 6 billion (approx. $240 million—Ed.) – but could easily climb to double that amount. However, the whole situation is rather murky.
Among the companies in the running for the contract is the world’s largest producer of helicopters Airbus Helicopters, whose manufacturing arm is based in Germany, and the US producers Bell and Sikorsky.
Airbus Helicopters’ chief of European sales, Thomas Hein, told iHned.cz that the firm had been putting major efforts into trying to secure the deal.
But Mr. Hein said all he could do for now was wait for information from the German government or from the Czech media. The latter’s reports have been disquieting, he added.
Airbus prepared its tender bid on the basis of initial information that the Czech Ministry of Defence had CZK 6 billion to spend on helicopters, Mr. Hein said.
However, the Czechs are now considering bids that would cost twice that figure and Airbus’s competitors are offering larger machines.
IHned.cz points out that army contracts need not be decided via an open competition, with the Defence Ministry sometimes striking deals directly with another state to purchase its machines.
So the ministry could now make a choice based on two years of weighing up indicative offers – or it could launch a new competition with more specific requirements.
A spokesman said no decision had been made by the ministry’s leadership and the General Staff. The final phase of assessing a survey of the market is still ongoing, he told the news site.
Airbus has been perturbed by reports in the Czech media suggesting that US company Bell, which has a service centre for Europe in Prague, was now favourite to seal the deal.
The daily Právo made that assertion on the basis of testimony from two members of the Chamber of Deputies’ defence committee and Ministry of Finance sources.
Bell’s price is apparently CZK 12 billion. However, the American manufacturer has pledged to deliver the helicopters relatively quickly.
That is music to the ears of the Czech Army as it would mean less outlay on keeping its aging Soviet helicopters in operation.
Other companies spoken about in connection with the contract have been Italian manufacturer Agusta and the US-based Sikorsky.
Meanwhile, there are marked differences in the machines in the running. Sikorsky has offered Prague refitted models of its Black Hawk, which is three times bigger than the Airbus H145M.