Modernization of the Czech infantry

Objavil Matej Fugina, 5. oktober 2010

acr1The Czech Armed Forces (Armáda České republiky or AČR) represent an example of a fast-paced organizational and technological modernization in the framework of modern security issues. Their development is dictated by a drastic and rapid transfer from former Soviet integrations into Euro-Atlantic ones. Infantry as the main component of modern military operations is the key factor within the modernization process and therefore the subject of this discussion. It has transformed from a heavy mechanized force into a smaller mobile expeditionary force engaged in military (peace support) operations abroad.1

Historical context of modernization

Development of common Czechoslovakian armed forces was heavily influenced by integration within the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON) and the Warsaw Pact on one side and partial autonomy on the other. The latter was first introduced with the stagnation of Czech economy in the sixties, when new liberal approach was searched for to pull the country out of recession. Elements of liberal and open market quickly came across closed socialist economical system and Prague spring ended with soviet intervention. Brezhnev doctrine sacrificed Czech autonomy to preserve socialism and thus ended the expansion of industrialization.

dnevi-nataIn military and war doctrine, soviet influence also dominated. Common soviet doctrine integrated and polarized national doctrines of the members of the Warsaw pact under one collective strategic deterrence. Czech military doctrine was therefore extremely symmetric – in contrast with Yugoslavia, which implemented asymmetric approaches (total war in militia) in its doctrine after the Prague spring. Heavy mechanized infantry and armoured units became the very core of the armed forces – in waiting for a massive war in central Europe, right along the Iron Curtain.

After lifting the Iron curtain, many ex-members of the Warsaw pact faced a common problem – “the West” left them behind both technologically and in doctrine. In the eighties, American armed forces presented a new doctrine of AirLand battle as a response to eastern superiority in quantity of armour and artillery. Doctrine ought to guarantee victory with tactical nuclear heads, supremacy in space and combining military capabilities (branches) – i.e. air force with army and navy. Western armies would not clash with eastern armies frontally (on borders of Iron curtain), but in their strategic hinterland. In the nineties, Czech Republic faced a challenge, i.e. comprehensive organizational and technological modernization of their armed forces in accordance with changes in complex security environment (i.e. multidimensional approach in dealing with security issues), modern military operations and the last revolution in military affairs (informatization and digitalization) as well as revolution in attitudes toward military (lack of legitimacy of the armed forces). Infantry faced the biggest changes as a backbone of international operations and missions.

Changes of strategic concept – complex security environment

When dealing with complex model of security, we are talking about multidimensionality (relations between security threats on various dimensions – economic, military, information, etc.) and spill-over effect (internationality of security threats). Both helped transfer legitimacy and legality of using armed forces and with it the monopoly of using force on international organizations. Contemporary warfare became joint warfare, forces in use became combined. Common military infrastructure, strategic planning and compatibility of technology and cadre became required.

Trends in focusing primarily on international military operations and missions can be analyzed in two ways: 1. Military transformation orientates armed forces in professionalization, combined arms warfare, logistic independence, mobility and transferability. Armed forces of the 21st century are modular, highly responsive, expeditionary orientated and organized in battle teams; 2. Contemporary modernization efforts are a result of unexpected effectiveness of opponent’s asymmetric warfare and consist of rapid technological modernization of armour (e.g. MRAP, AMAP, etc.), usage of nonlethal and less than lethal weapons, improving situation awareness, combat against IEDs, etc.

AČR began their military transformation with expeditionary operations at the end of 1990, when common Czechoslovakia sent 200 soldiers – volunteers in coalition Desert storm as chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence unit. Czech Republic has been operating in international operations and missions (IOM) ever since. Military strategy from 2008 is an attempt to formalize strategic goals and defines interests for operating in IOM. It emphasizes the role of complex security environment, spill-over effect, regional crisis, failed states, etc. Strategy also stresses out the necessity of preventing armed conflicts on the basis of international cooperation and defines national security and defence within NATO’s collective defence. AČR therefore does not need to develop all capabilities for autonomous military operations.

Reorganization of AČR in cadre and structure

czech_forcesAČR disbanded the 2nd mechanized brigade and moved the remaining mechanized infantry based on soviet infantry fighting vehicles BMP-2 into the 7th mechanized brigade. It comprises two mechanized battalions, light motorized battalion and an armoured battalion, which consists of thirty modernized main battle tanks T-72 M4CZ. Others were moved into the strategic reserve. According to military strategy from 2004, the 7th brigade represents the core of divisionary taskforce battle team, which is organized for the purpose of national defence. It also includes the 13th artillery brigade, which is organized in peace as the third pillar of AČR land forces. Rapid (crisis) response forces are organized within the 4th brigade of rapid reaction forces consisting of two 8×8 mechanized battalion2 and a light motorized battalion and an airborne battalion. Regarding readiness, armed forces consist of A and B units: the first are rapid response forces for the needs in international operations (4th brigade, 601st special forces group under direct command of General staff, 102nd recon battalion – SOF) and the second is the 7th mechanized brigade.3

Part of AČR also consists of the active reserve which is supporting professional units in the system of civil protection, disaster relief and crisis management with civil experts needed. Professionalization of the armed forces is a direct answer to modern transnational and complex threats. Professional core (the careerists) decreased in number from 38,049 in 1993 to 22,145 in 2005. Professionalization started in 2005 and in the next year, initial operative capabilities were met. Full operational capabilities are scheduled for 2012. Since then, the increasing number of professional soldiers is inversely proportional to the number of officers. Reason for this can be found in the change of Soviet doctrine to the Western doctrine. The direct line of command in the hierarchy of the armed forces was characteristic for the Warsaw pact, while in NATO, the line of command was operationally orientated, giving officers more operational flexibility and autonomy in decision-making on tactical and operative levels. AČR thus faced the problem of lacking lower officers and having too many higher officers and generals. Professionalization and disbanding conscription also widened the gap between armed forces and civil society – as it is the problem in every country dealing with professionalization. As a result, a part of the extensive reform became relegitimation of the military forces throughout the integration of professional armed forces into the society. This idea was implemented through recognizing demographic trends and principle that the efficiency of an organization lies in the competence of its employees. The second important change is differentiating the profession as an occupation and the profession as a way of life – i.e. with unique intellectual base, ethical code, initiation and a status of a social class (e.g. medical profession). Formal military education was therefore standardized to civil standards and transformed into a civil institution – University of defence in Brno, which is a part of educating future officers.

Technical modernization of the infantry of AČR

Technical modernization following modern trends represents the biggest financial problem of military transformation. Change in strategic concept is essential, but cannot be implemented on weapon systems from the Cold war. The modernization of AČR was in fact comprehensive, but the article focuses on modernization of infantry in the last decade.

pandur-ii-czWeapon systems were modernized through the process of informatization and digitalization of subsystems: laser rangefinders, optoelectronics, CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) defence, signals, command and control systems, etc. Last year, the purchase of 107 Steyr-Daimler-Puch 8×8 Pandur II in the value of $651 million was announced. First contract was cancelled in 2007 because the vehicle did not achieve the required capabilities on field testing. New transporters will replace unsuited Polish-Czechoslovakian 8×8 OT-64. The core of motorized infantry (i.e. 72 vehicles) will be armed with Rafael’s remote controlled weapon system RCWS-30 Samson with automatic cannon 30 mm Mk-44 Bushmaster, coaxial machinegun 7.62 mm and two anti-armour rockets Spike. Eleven command vehicles, eight reconnaissance vehicles with radar and eight without it, four MEDEVAC and four engineer vehicles are also a part of the contract.

The most complex project in comprehensive modernization is modernizing the infantry soldier, the so-called warrior of the 21st century. Czech project Vojak 21 (V21) is based on the integration of new weapon systems and sensors in unique and comprehensive package of C4I system. It follows the trend in network-centric warfare which allows rapid response and operational flexibility through combination of receivers and processors. The idea is transforming the soldier into a receiver (of information) and executor at the same time, integrated into a common information network. The project consists of low illumination camera, heads-up display (HUD), laser rangefinder, optoelectronics, GPS navigation, advanced camouflage, personal radio device, advanced ballistic protection, CBRN protection, weapon systems and source of energy. New assault rifle Česká Zbrojovka CZ 805 Bren 5.56×45 mm will replace the old Czechoslovakian type of Kalashnikov assault rifle CZ vz. 58 7.62×39 mm. New rifle will be multicaliber (5.56 NATO, 7.62 Russian and 6.8×43 mm Remington SPC) with 40 mm under-barrel grenade launcher. Personal defence weapon i.e. semiautomatic handgun CZ 82 9×18 mm Makarov will be replaced with Glock 17 9×19 mm Parabellum or CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom. The most important part of integrated information network will be the new UAV and UAG sensors (UAV sojka III and MUAV MQ-11 Raven) and mobile early warning artillery system ARTHUR. Short-term technical modernization is represented through needs of the Special Forces and peacekeepers in IOM. Badly ballistic and mine protected Humvees are being replaced with new generation MRAP vehicles (mine resistant ambush protected). Soldiers in Afghanistan have already been equipped with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann’s vehicles Dingo 2 4×4 and the Iveco’s LMV 4×4. It also seems that new public competition for MRAP vehicles is in place with two competitors: Mowag’s Eagle IV and BAE Systems’ OMC RG-32M. Electronic jammers for radio-controlled IEDs and RCWSs are also already in use. Manoeuvrability and mobility are the key for  a expeditionary-oriented infantry. Currently, tactical transport planes Antonov An-26 are being replaced with more effective EADA Casa-295M. Without its own strategic transport, the Czech Republic was also forced in joint project – together with Slovenia in NATO’s Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS). Sixteen members are renting six planes Antonov An-124-100. Czech Republic does not cooperate in the last joint project, i.e. Strategic Airlift Capability (SAC) for the purchase of common transport planes C-17 Globemaster III.

The Future

FX031304DR1798In the time of economic stagnation and financial crisis, most of the European countries face a drastic decrease in defence budgets – a consequence of budget rebalance on the expense of a social state. For armed forces in the middle of technological modernization, this presents an even bigger problem because of the modernization efforts representing approximately 20 % of the defence budget. Current goal is to decrease military and civil personnel for another 4500 members. Efficiency of national defence system will try to be improved with close horizontal and vertical cooperation and reorganization of personnel. Civil defence units will be reorganized into combat engineer units, two into light mechanized battalions for the need of disaster relief, one will be disbanded and the last will be transferred to local administration of civil protection. The biggest pressure on the defence ministry is represented by the opposition, which is demanding an end to Czech cooperation in IOM during the financial crisis. The future of NATO in Afghanistan is also important for the AČR as they are cooperating with international efforts in two separate operations in Afghanistan, i.e. Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force). The relegitimation of war in Afghanistan is essential for the AČR as their military strategy is also linked to it.

  1. The article was published in Slovene in the Slovenian Armed Forces Journal here. Translation was done by Matej Fugina, correction by Dunja Elikan []
  2. NATO’s terminology classifies middle armoured wheeled transportation vehicles as infantry fighting vehicles (e.g. Stryker 8×8), therefore classifying units equipped with it as “mechanized infantry” instead of “motorized” one. This is due to mass usage of wheeled transporters while in the Eastern Block (and also in Yugoslavia), mechanized infantry meant heavy armoured mechanized units with support of armoured units. []
  3. Organizational chart was modified by author to emphasize reorganization of infantry forces. Original chart can be found on Wikipedia here. []

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