The Slovak army will purchase 25 new self-propelled howitzers, called Zuzana 2, after the government approved the purchase at its May 23 session. It expects to spend some €175 million, including spare parts and training.
The improved Zuzana howitzers will replace the older Zuzana 2000 howitzers purchased in late 1990s, the TASR newswire reported.
The trade will not be carried out through open tender, the Denník N daily reported.
Supplied by a Slovak company
With its technical parameters, the Zuzana 2 howitzer is comparable to artillery weapon systems used by the top-level armies of NATO-member states, said Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš (the Slovak National Party, SNS).
The modernisation of heavy artillery was recommended to Slovakia by NATO with respect to its commitment to building a heavy mechanised brigade. As Gajdoš stressed, the Zuzana 2 artillery system is the best choice for the Slovak Armed Forces.
“I can proudly say that the government has approved this project,” Gajdoš said, as quoted by Denník N.
The howitzers will be supplied to the military by the state-run company Konštrukta Defence, with the government opting for a direct commission without a tender or the potential procurement of foreign military equipment. Gajdoš pointed to the need to supporting the domestic arms industry, also a priority for his party.
The company is known from the plans to purchase 8x8 transporters. The SNS nominees ordered a prototype of the vehicle from the company to prevent an open tender, Denník N wrote.
First case of post-revolution replacements
It is possible that the Defence Ministry will sign an order in the following weeks. The state plans to invest the first €26 million into the howitzers this year, with most of the money being spent by the end of 2021, Denník N wrote.
Gajdoš meanwhile rejected the idea that the procurement is overpriced. As for the fact that the bid for the French Caesar howitzers stood at €5.5 million per piece, whereas the Zuzana 2 ones will be purchased by the state for €6.064 million each, the minister claimed that some parameters of the Slovak product are better.
Of the total €175 million, €152 million will be spent on the howitzers and the rest on training personnel, a firing simulator, the necessary spare parts and artillery munitions. The Zuzana 2 howitzers are slated to be delivered by 2022.
The planned purchase will be the first case of replacing the weaponry purchased after the 1989 revolution.
“The Armed Forces currently have 16 Zuzana 2000 howitzers that were delivered in the years 1998-2000,” reads the government’s material, as quoted by Denník N. “Their technical and technological state recommends the era when they were put into operation.”
Analyst Vladimír Bednár thinks it would be enough if the Defence Ministry bought only eight new howitzers, to expand the existing ones. He considers 25 to be too much, as reported by Denník N.