Czech General Details Status of
Tank Modernization, L-159 Fighter Programs
(Source : Czech Ministry of Defence ; dated Nov. 23, Web-posted Dec. 20, 2000)
Statement by Gen. Jiri Sedivy,
Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army,
During Nov. 23 Parliamentary Seminar in Prague
(The following document has been edited for clarity and space--Editor)
Currently there are two important projects going on within the armed forces. Let's start with the T-72 as it is not so expensive, and we have discussed it already last time, so that now we are telling you just the latest situation.
We have already announced that there had been tests carried out by the manufacturer, and based on them the armed forces have taken over the prototypes in order to carry out military tests. The military tests took place in September and October; they were finalised by the end of October, the final report on the military tests will be ready by the end of this month.
You know that it has been already declared that if the military tests succeed, a testing series of seven pieces of T-72 will be manufactured in 2001-2002. We suppose that eventually a total number of 140 tanks will be modernised, that means tanks of only those units which will train on them, schools and training facilities. We are not going to modernise tanks which are intended for long-term conservation.
Currently, control tests have been carried out; final shooting tests have been carried out, which had been expected in suspense not only by the public but also by the military, as we had the possibility to verify with our soldiers and in compliance with our standards whether the firing system meets our requirements.
Currently we have about 662 tanks, of that 121 are T-54 and T-55 tanks. These tanks are to be sold, but we think that there will be no big interest in them as they were already in operation and they would have to be repaired to a relatively large extent. This [ 541] is the number of the T-72; with only 280 tanks that will be included in organisational structures. This number is envisaged to cover the loss, both at war and due to peace training activities. There will be about 120 of them in service with the army, and the rest will be in schools, facilities etc.
As for the modernisation, the task was for T-72 to be upgraded to the level of a third or fourth generation tank. We are speaking about the third or fourth generation because currently basically all armies are going this way, and only few armies are buying new tanks. They are mostly implementing modernisation programmes.
The modernisation had also to address the issues like the interoperability of the tank e.g. in the area of communications, fuel and so on.
Upgraded T72 Testing Program
Now to the results of the testing itself. We took over the prototypes on 13-14 September.
Between 18 September and 28 October, the fire control system had been tested in the Libavб training area. The results were quite convincing. We have tested the fire control system by using various ammunitions and for various distances, both from static positions and on the move, and both with static and moving targets. Moreover, we have tested firing by night with limited visibility; including the use of modernised subcalibre ammunition which is very efficient.
Within the framework of testing, deep fording has been tested as well. I must say that initially there were certain doubts concerning this kind of training, but the tank has met the standards in a convincing manner and the tightness of the tank has shown parameters above standard. The conclusion has been that the engines have worked reliably in given conditions. As deep fording is a sort of our armed forces' traditional specialty, a big question for us had been whether particularly the fire control system, communications systems and the engine and gear compartment would meet our requirements, because no such training is being carried out with our partner nations, even if deep fording is being envisaged under certain circumstances.
Between 16 and 20 October we have conducted a tactical exercise with combat firing at Libavб. It included testing in areas like engineer, chemical, communications, and mechanical capabilities. Between 30 October and 3 November, we were testing the travel capabilities of the tank and related issues.
By 16 November, the committee has evaluated the results of the military testing. Today, on 23 November, the final report is being signed. I am going to examine and review it. Subsequently, information will be presented to the Security Council of the State and to other authorities which are entitled to it.
The results are that the tank has really confirmed the envisaged parameters and in some aspects it has even succeeded beyond our expectations. In my opinion, the results are very solid particularly in the field of manoeuvrability of the tank, its cross-country capability, and radar camouflage. If I were to compare the classic tank and this modernised one, and I don't want to be very brutal toward the T-72 which I know very well, I wouldn't like to sit in a tank which would face the modernised one.
The conclusion of the military tests, as proposed by the committee, has confirmed that the technical parameters in both passive and active protection of the crew have been met, has proven a high manoeuvrability and cross-country capability, and an increased firing efficiency. Some issues still remain to be resolved, though. These include e.g. questions of ergonomics, or logistical issues concerning e. g. maintenance and operation. But this is going to be clarified after the first months of training when we are able to say what the tank really needs in this respect. To conclude, it can be said that the T-72 tank in this version has been upgraded to the level of a third to fourth generation tank.
The fire control system had been really a controversial part of the tank and it has actually caused the delay of the whole T-72 project. This has been widely covered by the media and there was a severe discussion to this point. We as soldiers had to come to terms with certain arguments, we have not abandoned our tactical and technical requirements and we have been right not to have done so because this would have degraded the quality of the whole tank. There had been problems, it is useless to hide it, but these tests have demonstrated that the company was able to manage the whole project in the area of the fire control system, even if there has been a delay and certain problems had to be overcome.
(Italy's) Officine Gallileo caused a delay. As a result of the failure in the initial stages of the programme, the company was already paying the costs of its own testing and all ammunition used during the tests. We have stopped financing the system at the moment when the results should have been presented. Presently there will be talks based on our conclusions, and the Acquisition Office and managers will be involved and they will have to continue the work based on the contracts which had been closed not only with Officine Galileo but also with other companies which are taking part in the modernisation.
L-159 Program Update
Now for the L-159. Let's talk about the current situation and the envisaged further progress. Let me just remind you that the L-159 aircraft is based on the well-tried L-29 and L-39 and other variants of the latter; that this aircraft really means a weapon system which is fully compatible with NATO standards.
Our requirement is a simple logistical support. We want relatively low operational costs; and we want it to allow an eventual transfer to a modern multipurpose supersonic tactical aircraft. We are not saying which type, but we want to have such avionics and such control which can really ensure the transfer to new generation supersonics.
I have been asked questions like what can this aircraft carry and what can it be used for. As for basic armaments, the L-159 can carry a very variable weaponry. It is intended primarily for ground forces' support. The L-159 will never be a supersonic fighter, and it would be a mistake to compare it with a supersonic. This aircraft carries primarily air-to-surface guided missiles, and air-to-air missiles for its defence; it can carry a wide range of air bombs, be it non-guided bombs or simple air bombs; rockets; a cannon container called Plamen, which is a Czech system developed in Vsetнn, external fuel tanks, container bombs, training ammunition if need be.
When we are talking about the growth potential, this also means introducing further types of air-to-air guided missiles, particularly medium-range. We want to introduce pods which can carry additional equipment and which will increase the efficiency of the aircraft, including reconnaissance pods as part of these aircraft are intended for reconnaissance.
As soon as this stage of L-159 implementation is finalised, work will be opened aimed at the integration of further enhancement of its combat capabilities, be it those reconnaissance, marking, or jamming containers I have already mentioned; guided missiles; active radar guidance system of the AMRAAM class; IFF devices; in-flight refueling etc.
Let me just repeat that the first requirement for our flight of 12 aircraft to be operational is since 2003. We suppose that for the time being, these aircraft will operate over the Czech Republic's territory only, and since 1 January 2006 there will be other 12 aircraft assigned for NATO Immediate Reaction Force. To this purpose, a study on growth potential integration and a study on dual control aircraft will be developed in 2001. A prototype in fact already exists, but we still have to finalise some things which are connected with it.
Current Status of L-159
Now to the current status of the L-159 programme. We have completed the military testing without armaments by 3 September. Our military tests with armaments will be carried out in spring next year.
On 30 October there were talks with the Aero Vodochody management, headed by the Defence Minister on our part. We are all trying to find the best position for further progress. We are closing clauses to the contract on the delivery of the L-159 stating all shortcomings, deadlines of their elimination on the manufacturer's costs. Currently, examination of those aircraft is underway which can already be checked, as not all of them have been completed.
According to Aero Vodochody, we shall probably be able to start taking over the first 14 aircraft in late November. In compliance with the contract there ought to have been 21 of them, Aero promises us to deliver the remaining aircraft by the end of January. In 2001 we'll start taking over the aircraft starting with number 6022. With these weґll already insist particularly on modifications of the fuel system. Also in 2001, Aero Vodochody will carry out repairs of those parts which we consider indispensable in the series 6001 to 6021. They include e. g. certain ergonomic requirements of the pilots, not such changes or modifications which would mean that the aircraft we are taking over are “semi-finished” or in bad condition, or not safe.
We are interested in the L-159 aircraft already for that reason that they are operationally cheaper, they are on the state-of-the-art level, and we are interested in starting to train on them as soon as possible, with all security measures and training procedures being complied with. We expect the L-159 to enable us at least the minimum flying hours which are necessary for our pilots to achieve the level comparable with that of our partners in NATO. And you all know that this will not be easy even from the financial point of view.
As for the training, a concept of implementation of this aircraft into the armed forces has been prepared. We want it to provide for both basic and advanced, tactical and operational training, and prospectively to be integrated in the NATO system. What does it mean for the initial stages of training: our requirement has been the completion of all training facilities which are necessary for training on L-159. They include multimedia teaching rooms which should be ready by the end of January; a simulator of cockpit procedures which should be in place in March, while already now we have the possibility to train on Aero Vodochody's training equipment; a computer-aided simulator should be ready in May, and a flight planning system probably in June. We envisage interconnection with information systems, particularly with respect to our partners from the point of view of planning, and a complex Full-mission simulator.
The perspective part of the training system for L-159 includes development of a command-staff simulator which will enable planning ad training of all staffs of flight groups and bases. Moreover, there will be a tactical simulator for emergency ejection, interconnection with Ground Forces' simulators, with NATO training systems, and communication lines, which are also connected with the L-159 growth potential, particularly in the area of communications.
As for the training itself, as a rule it will start on Z-142, for which the training base will remain at Pardubice; the L-39 will also remain, plus simulators; subsequently the training on the L-159, simulators, and if there are any supersonics, then subsequent transfer to supersonics. Then there will be another group of pilots, whose initial training will be the same but it will be completed on the level of the L-159, these will be combat aircraft pilots.
I have already said, the first goal is to have 12 aircraft ready for the Rapid Reaction Force by 2003, another 12 are to be ready for operational employment in NATO assigned forces by 1 January 2006. The next two essential goals is to provide the necessary armaments and logistic equipment.
Our task is to operate the L-159 in an efficient way, as it is not possible for the new aircraft to sit at the airports. This means not only to effectively operate the L-159 but also to train a necessary number of pilots according to NATO standards for operational employment, and to carry out the integration of selected aspects of the growth potential with this aircraft by 2006. Another task after 2006 will be to provide the armaments for the remaining machines, which means another 48 aircraft.
We are going through a very difficult period now. NATO is now discussing what exactly we need and at which levels of readiness should it be. ... We of course have a concept, and this concept from the point of view of the Air Force is connected with the task of defending the Czech Republic's airspace.
That is the discussion on whether we need the supersonics. If we are given the task, and it still holds, we need the supersonics. And according our calculations, and not only ours, they should be at least 24. But again I say this is mathematics, you can't invent whatever you would like. For the today's calculations, further use of our Air Force, particularly the tactical for ground forces' support, is based on support of our rapid reaction division? and brigade, plus what is required by the NATO Integrated Air Defence System. And as not everything has been finalised in the framework of this system, anything I would tell you would be a guesstimate. It can happen that we are going to need all 72, and it can happen that we are not going to need the whole batch. I know this hasn't been an exact answer, I know I am avoiding it, but it is not easy.
This number has been the same since 1997. If the task remains, i. e. defence of the airspace, then 24 supersonics are needed for the defence of the Czech Republic's airspace. I am a soldier and I have to fulfil my task. If somebody decides that the armed forces are not going to defend this space, then we actually don't need any armed forces. This would be something, wouldn't it? It is necessary to ask whether the armed forces are going to continue fulfilling this task. If they are, then we must be capable of fulfilling it. And this we can do with supersonics only. And with respect to the necessary readiness and to the possibilities of the aircraft which are available now, 24 aircraft are necessary. At least. Not to speak about ground forces' support which must also be covered from the air and in some cases the enemy defence cannot be overcome by subsonic aircraft. http://www.defense-aerospace.com/