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Czech Republic to buy Israeli air defence system amid strengthening ties

Move to replace obsolete Soviet-made weapons follows Prague's opening of the Jerusalem office of its embassy in March
The air defence system, used to protect cities, nuclear power plants and other potential targets, will be supplied by 2026 (Wikimedia)

The Czech defence ministry said on Monday it would buy four short-range air defence system batteries from Israel by 2026 to replace obsolete Soviet-made weapons.

The ministry said it had informed the cabinet it would conclude a government-to-government deal to buy Rafael's Spyder short-range air defence and medium-range surface-to-air missile.

It said it would pay 13.69bn crowns ($631.8m) for the system, which will replace Soviet-made technology from the 1970s.

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The contract also involves supplies by Czech companies amounting to more than 30 percent of its value.

The government has been raising defence spending to modernise its armed forces, but has admitted it would fall short of its pledge as a member of Nato to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence by 2024.

The ministry added in a statement that it had considered nine different systems from seven producers.

Israel’s Spyder emerged as the most efficient one from the comparison," the ministry said.

"It is a solution adjusted to Czech needs, compatible with Nato standards and with the involvement of Czech industry.”

Strengthening ties

The ministry said last year when it opened talks on the Rafael deal that it planned to buy four batteries, each including its own radar, command and control unit.

The system, used to protect cities, nuclear power plants and other potential targets, will be supplied by 2026, it said.

Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar hailed the purchase as a step towards getting rid of a Soviet-made system from the 1970s which “does not correspond to current air defence standards.”

Ties between between the two nations have strengthened this year, with Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek visiting Israel in May and the Czech Republic opening the Jerusalem office of its embassy in March after announcing its plans to do so in December 2020.

The Palestinian Authority and the Arab League condemned the opening of the diplomatic office as a violation of international law.