Czechia and Slovakia swap howitzers for Azeri gas

A deal is reportedly in the pipeline for the procurement by Azerbaijan of 70 Czech and Slovak-made howitzers in a bid to facilitate further talks over the provision of gas from Azeri pipelines

By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Azerbaijan has reached a deal with the Slovak government for the procurement of DITA self-propelled howitzers in exchange for further talks on securing Azeri gas.

The artillery is manufactured by Czech company Excalibur Army, part of the Czechoslovak Group (CSG), one of the fastest-growing arms manufacturers in Europe under Michal Strnad.

The contract with Azerbaijan, however, has been criticized by members of the Slovak opposition. As some parts of the artillery are produced by Slovak state-owned Konštrukta-Defence and ZTS-Special, some lawmakers claim it will use up resources currently being used to supply Ukraine. This concern, however, has been dismissed by the Slovak government and the Czech manufacturer.

The deal is expected to facilitate talks between Prague, Bratislava, and Baku for the procurement by the Visegrád nations of Azeri gas.

The announcement follows a visit to Baku last week by Slovak Economy Minister Denisa Sakova, who revealed that both European nations were interested in the provision of gas from Azeri pipelines.

It is unknown how many howitzers will be purchased by Azerbaijan, but the Echo 24 news outlet reported that Baku was interested in at least 70 units.

“For reasons of information protection and contractual conditions, we do not disclose the armament orders and their details,” CSG Holding spokesman Andrej Čírtek told the news site.

“CSG, its Czech and Slovak companies, including in cooperation with Slovak state enterprises, are working intensively on obtaining new orders in various territories, which will ensure the production program of the Czech and Slovak defense industry in this area for years to come,” he added.

The Netherlands also ordered nine howitzers from CSG at the beginning of the year, intended to be donated to Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia.

Czech military expert Lukáš Visingr said a deal for 70 units would be the “largest contract for the export of artillery equipment” for Czechia and Slovakia since 1989 and would be “proof of the growing strength of the Czech and, at the same time, the Slovak defense industry, because DITA could not exist without Slovak components.”

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