WARSAW, Poland --- The chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, Lt. General Ales Opata, has outlined plans calling for the government to invest CZK100 billion ($4.5 billion) in what would prove to be the largest military modernization program in the country's history. The aim is to phase-out the Army of the Czech Republic's (ACRs) majority Soviet-legacy hardware in favor of Westernized materiel of modern technological, NATO-standard capability by 2027.
Some steps have been taken in the past 10 years to patch or upgrade capabilities inherited from the former Czechoslovakia military, but what has remained lacking since the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999 has been a cohesive, well-funded plan with cross-party political consensus backing its implementation.
The program outlined by Lt. Gen. Opata calls for the acquisition of 210 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), 50 self-propelled howitzers (SPHs), 12 multi-role (utility) helicopters, two transport aircraft, short-range air-defense systems (SHORADS), and combat drones, amongst other hardware. The goal is to bring all this new equipment into service - or have it under contract for delivery - by 2027.
The Czech Republic is slowly increasing annual defense expenditures with a goal of reaching 1.4 percent of GDP in military budgeting by 2020, with the NATO minimum requirement of 2 percent of GDP to then be attained by 2025 as per an Alliance agreement forged at the NATO Summit of 2014 in Wales. The current defense budget for 2018 is CZK58.9 billion ($2.64 billion), slightly higher than the initial CZK57.9 billion originally envisioned under the fiscal year (FY18) budgetary proposal and 12 percent above what was earmarked in 2017.