Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Czech Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar met at the Pentagon to finalize the sale of eight UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters and four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters.
The defense leaders took part in a ceremonial signing of the agreement today following a meeting in which they discussed their long-standing defense relationship as well as mutual security concerns, according to a defense official.
The sale, which Esper said was a "historic moment," totals about $650 million and is the Czech Republic's largest military purchase from the U.S. The defense secretary said it is a step forward in the Czech Republic's replacement of Russian helicopters with NATO interoperable equipment.
This procurement supports the National Defense Strategy objectives of strengthening alliances as well as countering Russian influence, highlights consolidated gains made over the past 30 years as the Czech Republic modernizes its armed forces and demonstrates the strength of the U.S.-Czech Republic defense relationship, a defense official said.
Both leaders said the U.S. and the Czech Republic share many security interests.
"We continue to stand united as NATO allies to deter an increasingly aggressive Russia. We will also continue to work together to address the threats and challenges posed by China, especially with regard to 5G technology," Esper said. He noted the department's appreciation for the Czech Republic's leadership in calling attention to the security of 5G networks in Europe.
Metnar said through a translator that the U.S. is the key strategic partner for his nation, noting that the two countries not only are NATO allies, but also have historically supported each other. "Our service members train together, fight together on deployed operations and today, now, we are opening a new chapter in our mutual relationship," he said.
Things to Know About the U.S.-Czech Relationship:
1. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution — which began Nov. 17, 1989 — and the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia.
2. The Czech Republic joined NATO on March 12, 1999, alongside former Soviet states Poland and Hungary.
3. In 2018, the Czech Republic marked 25 years of partnership with the Nebraska and Texas National Guards.
4. The Czech Republic contributes forces in Afghanistan, to the enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia and Lithuania, the Kosovo Force, and to the coalition to defeat ISIS.
5. The Czech Republic has increased its defense spending by about 13% annually since 2017. It is on track to reach 1.4% of its gross domestic product for defense spending by 2021 and has announced a plan to reach the committed 2% by 2024.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Pentagon has not released additional details about the above sale, but on May 3, Congress was notified of the planned sale of four AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters for $205 million.
It was also notified of a separate sale of twelve UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for $800 million.
The sale of UH-1Y utility helicopters was notified on Oct. 23, 2017, and covered twelve helicopters at an estimated cost of $575 million.)