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Defense Group Plans First Projects

in Czech News by

BRNO-Three months after being established, RDP Group unveiled its first two projects as an industrial defense consortium.

Jan Vlcek, director of RDP Group, announced recently that the Czech consortium is planning joint ventures with two French companies – Marrel and Auverland – to produce logistics container trucks and four-wheel drive jeeps.

RDP spokesman Jaroslav Hudec said consortium member Skoda Pilsen is negotiating with Marrel to build the logistics container trucks. The trucks will have a powerful hydraulic arm that can load pallets and containers weighing up to 25 tons.

“Skoda Engineering will produce the arm; we will provide the hydraulics,” said Marrel representative Gary Hardy.

He said the hydraulic system would be flexible and adaptable to any platform or chassis. Marrel has been producing versions of the system for 15 years, Hardy said.

Military customers include France, Belgium, Denmark, and Thailand. Also, the system is being tested by Norway, he said.

“We’ve been in contact [with Skoda Pilsen] for one year,” Hardy said. “We are not trying to cooperate on a specifically military product. Containers are the same, whether military or civilian. Only the color is different.”

Meanwhile, RDP member Avia Praha, which manufactures light trucks, is negotiating with Auverland to build a four-wheel drive jeep.Avia representative Ludek Tichy said Avia will use mostly French parts and Peugeot engines in the beginning. Czech parts, however, will be used increasingly as time goes on.

Tichy said the Czech Republic’s lower labor costs will make the price of the jeep competitive.

“The price of the Avia Auverland jeep will be markedly lower than others in its class. I want to penetrate the civilian market,” Tichy said.

Tichy expects other customers for the jeep to be the Czech army, Interior Ministry and the forestry and mountain services. Production is expected to begin at the end of the year. Total 1994 production should reach 1,000 vehicles, he said.

“We are modernizing according to our timetable. We will uphold the same export laws as France and the U.S.,” he said. “We want to help modernize the Czech army and its understanding of technology, equipment and way of thinking.”

Ferdinand Flandera, a Skoda Pilsen official who manages the T-72 project, said RDP will complete a prototype by the end of the year. He said the model would not be fully operational for two years, however.

The Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted Vlcek in early July as saying the tank would use the same fire-control system as the French LeClerc tank. Various Western experts said that installing that system was impractical because it would double the cost of the tank.

Some RDP officials have said that RDP intends to use a stripped-down version of the LeClerc’s fire-control system.

Flandera said the Slovaks were rebuffed when they recently asked to join RDP Group. When RDP was established in June, members decided that only Czech companies could join, Hudec said.

He said RDP is primarily interested in manufacturing heavy transport vehicles, civil transport vehicles, small arms and ammunition.

“We will not manufacture nuclear artillery or rockets,” he said.

RDP Group began with 12 equal members, but is expected to expand to 28 companies by the end of this month.

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