The Czech Republic has approached five manufacturers for offers to supply between four and six new transports to replace its air force's fleet of five Antonov An-26s, with the new aircraft needed to provide support to missions in countries including Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia.
The defence ministry confirms that it has requested bids from Alenia Aeronautica, Antonov, EADS Casa, Ilyushin and Lockheed Martin, with a decision expected either later this year or during 2009 and deliveries to take place from 2011. Candidate types are expected to include the An-32, An-74, C-27J, C-130J and C-295, with the requirement calling for an aircraft capable of carrying a cargo of more than 10t or at least 44 soldiers.
"Whether we will buy four, five or six aircraft will depend on how large it will be, but also its price," says a defence ministry source. Prague's oldest An-26 dates back to 1982, while operations of its newest examples must cease by 2016.