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Czech Republic revisits army helicopter contest

The Czech Republic has halted an acquisition process for new military helicopters to redraw its specifications for the new aircraft.

Prague had in October 2017 shortlisted the Bell Helicopter UH-1Y and Leonardo Helicopters AW139M for the 12-unit requirement to replace its Mil Mi-24s.

However, the Czech defence ministry confirms that the acquisition is now on hold.

"The new defence minister Karla Šlechtová asked responsible personnel from the army's general staff to rework their list of specifications regarding the helicopters," it says.

"She wants to be sure the Czech army is prepared for the acquisition in the best possible way."

Šlechtová received the revised specifications on 1 February, the ministry says. She will now analyse the document with military officials, prior to issuing a revised request for proposals later this year.

"What we are sure about, minister Šlechtová won’t be addressing only one subject or one government," says the defence ministry.

Prior to the pause in the process, the US government had approved a potential deal via its Foreign Military Sales process, with the Italian administration also clearing a deal.

The revised contest opens the way for both Airbus Helicopters and Sikorsky to re-enter the fray. The latter is hopeful that it can find a European customer for the recently qualified armed variant of its S-70i Black Hawk.

That model, assembled by subsidiary PZL Mielec in Poland, had been excluded from the previous tender due to the requirement for a government-to-government deal.

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Poland also appears to have extended the deadline to submit final offers in two separate acquisitions for a total of 16 helicopters for its special forces and the navy.

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