Armor: The Czechs Do The Hustle


March 6, 2017: In early 2017 the Czech Republic ordered another 20 Pandur II wheeled APCs. These will cost about $4 million each and be license-manufactured in the Czech Republic. This arrangement was made possible by an increased defense budget that was in response to the growing Russian threats. By 2020 Czech military spending is expected to reach 1.4 percent of GDP from the current one percent. The official NATO requirement is two percent and the U.S. has made it clear that the Americans, who have always spent far more than two percent, expect their NATO partners to spend what they agreed to.

The 20 additional Pandurs include six of the command variant while rest will be standard APCs (armored personnel carriers). The purchase price includes ammo, electronics, weapons and spare parts. These APCs are for a new additional infantry brigade which will work with the two new light rapid reaction units.

The Czechs decided on the Pandur IIs in 2006 when the first 199 APCs models were ordered from Austria. However due to budget problems that order had to be reduced, in 2008, to 107 vehicles. Thus with the new order the Czechs will have 127 vehicles.

The Pandur II family of light armored vehicles was developed by the Austrian company which is now a part of General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems. Pandur is currently used by Austrian, Portugal and Czech armed forces. The Pandur II weighs up to 22 tons and us available in a number of variants, including some that use a turret equipped with weapons and sensors some variants are amphibious. Pandur is air transportable by the C-130 aircraft.

For protection the basic steel armor protects the crew from 7.62-mm armor-piercing rounds but optional add-on armor raises protection level up to include 14.5-mm armor-piercing ammunition. It should be noted that baseline vehicle has a flat bottom, which isn’t good against landmines. However the Czech version has a Λ-shaped bottom which is a reversed compared to traditional V-shaped bottoms.

Pandur comes in two sizes with the 6x6 APC can carry a crew of three and six passengers. The Czechs bought the larger 8x8 variant designed to carry a crew of 2 and 12 passengers. Besides the APC variant the Czech forces also have some heavier armored and armed version too. The 8x8 version can weigh up to 26 tons.

For armament the Czech Pandur II vehicles use Israeli RCS (remote controlled turrets). The APCs are either unarmed or equipped with a turret fitted with 7.62 or 12.7-mm machinegun. The heavier variant on the other hand uses the RCS30 turret fitted with 30 mm autocannon and Spike-LR ATGM launchers (an Israeli anti-tank missile with the range up to 4 kilometers). Pandur II is quite mobile because of a 285 horse power diesel engine connected with automatic transmission and all wheels are fitted with independent suspension.

Most of these vehicles are assigned to rapid reaction units which closely work with NATO allies. The Czechs are still replacing a lot of the Cold War era Russia vehicles and weapons. During years of savings gained thanks to keeping military expenditure around one percent of GDP many modernization programs were stalled. But now there is little time available for Czech Republic to acquire multiple systems including tracked IFVs, attack and multirole helicopters, air defense system and modern artillery systems. This will be very hard to complete in coming years even with risen budget. -- Przemysław Juraszek