This was probably the prevailing question at the Future Forces Forum, all four potential competitors being present with their stands in what was born long time ago as an exhibition dedicated to soldier systems. No Request for Proposals has yet been released, the feeling being that it will appear before year end, the estimated procurement timeframe being 2020-2025 according to the slides shown by Col. Pavel Lipka, Director Development of Land Forces Department, Force Development Division of the Czech Ministry of Defence. The requirement is for 210 vehicles, which will equip the 71st and 72nd Mechanised battalions, both belonging to the 7th Mechanised Brigade, the heavy element of the Czech Land Forces. These vehicles will be fitted in seven different versions, among them combat, command, reconnaissance, engineer, medevac, artillery reconnaissance and recovery.
The only vehicle present in real at the FFF was BAE Systems CV9035, the IFV being provided by the Dutch Army; beside the infantry version, the prototype of the CV90120 was also on show, being exhibited for the first time in Central Europe. The presence of the CV90 fitted with a 35 mm turret was not an indication, as for the time being the Czech Land Forces did not announced which will be the calibre of choice for the weapon mounted on the fighting vehicle version.
PSM, the KMW-Rheinmetall joint venture, was showing a model of the Puma IFV, of which over 200 have already been delivered to the German Bundeswehr. In fact the model was that of the Puma S1, the upgraded version which more visible difference is the integration of a twin Spike launcher on the left side of the turret, other major improvements such as the integration of a SATCOM system being also planned. It is to note that the Czech Army is already equipped with the Spike, and it is planning to replace its 9M113 Konkurs antitank missiles in the 2020-21 timeframe. Developed according to the German Bundeswehr requirements, the Puma is certainly not the least expensive option, although PSM is ready to tailor it to customer’s requirements.
A second model of the Puma was exhibited at the Rheinmetall stand, the company being part or PSM, although the KF41 in the IFV version was also visible in scale. Unveiled at Eurosatory last June, this tracked chassis was shown fitted with Rheinmetall’s Lance turret, currently in production for Australia, installed on the Boxer 8×8 chassis, as part of the Land 400 Phase 2 Project. As the KF41 has no assembly line established yet, this might play a role in the competition, as it should well be built in the Czech Republic. As for the gun, at the Lethality Panel within the Future Forces Individual Systems Congress’ Industry Day, Petr Vávra, Head of the Military Department at Česká Zbrojovka (CZ), illustrated the advantages of Rheinmetall’s MK 30-2 automatic cannon and that of its Kinetic Energy Time Fuse (KETF) 30 x 173 mm round, CZ representing Rheinmetall in the Czech Republic for those systems.
As for General Dynamics European Land Systems Division (GDLS), the offer is centred on the ASCOD, in service with Austria and Spain, and which evolved ASCOD 2 chassis is the base of the British Army Ajax. GDELS is already well established in the Czech Republic, its Pandur II being already in service in the 41st and 42nd Mechanised Battalions belonging to the 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade.
A decision on the BMP-2 replacement should be taken before the end of 2019 if the Czech Land Forces want to respect the in service timeframe, that should lead the Czech Army to declare the full readiness of its Mechanised Brigade Combat Team to NATO by 2026.