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U.S., Czech Republic Agree to Sale of Helicopters

Dec. 12, 2019 | BY Claudette Roulo , DOD News

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. 

Two men shake hands. Military service members in dress uniforms stand in a row in the background.
Pentagon Meeting
Defense Secretary Dr, Mark T. Esper greets Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 191212-D-WA993-1648
A man writes in a book on a podium.
Czech Defense Minister
Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar signs the guest book at the Pentagon, Dec. 12, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James K. Lee, DOD
VIRIN: 191212-D-WA993-1655

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.

Men in military dress uniforms shake hands.
Czech Ceremony
Czech Republic Air Force Maj. Gen. Jiri Verner, deputy chief of staff for the Czech Armed Forces Command, presents the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic to Texas Army National Guardsmen assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group during a ceremony in Prostejov, Czech Republic, Oct. 25, 2019. The soldiers were recognized for their support of Czech troops during a combat deployment to Afghanistan. Texas and the Czech Republic have been joined through the State Partnership Program since 1993.
Photo By: Texas Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena
VIRIN: 191025-Z-EP075-011

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.

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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.