The equipment on the face of it looks very unimpressive, but Czech defense company Era has achieved a notable success with its start of the art detection system winning a prestigious order from NATO in Brussels against competition from companies from across the alliance. And company bosses say that sort of recognition say will a long way to jumpstart more orders.
As a calling card, it could not come much better. While the technological prowess and success of the Czech defense company Era has been no secret on the home Czech market for decades, the Pardubice company has truly now stepped up a league by becoming a supplier to the West’s main defensive alliance, NATO.
On Monday, the head of NATO’s main agency for supplying the information technology to connect the alliance’s armed forces and buy cyber and missile defense systems, signed a contract with Era managers to buy two of its Věra mobile detection systems and back up services to use them.
Although the contract is itself worth just short of 434 million crowns, around US 22 million dollar, the significance is that the Czech system was selected in an open tender against more than 20 other companies from NATO countries. Field tests on the detection equipment were carried out for NATO with the Czech army supplying aircraft for detection and the personnel manning the systems.
Undoubtedly one of the major selling points of this Czech technology is its advantage over traditional radar detection systems which basically detect objects by emitting signals which bounce off the target aircraft, tanks, or ships.
The so called passive detection system works on a totally different basic, as the name suggests it does not emit signals but takes in all the electronic and electromagnetic impulses that are put out by sophisticated piece of military hardware and fixes their position at a distance of up to 500 kilometers.
Michal Zdobinský is chief editor of a Prague based monthly magazine which follows Czech and Slovak army contracts and technology. He outlined to Czech Television another of the Věra detection systems advantages regarding Stealth aircraft which are invisible to normal radar systems.
‘If a Stealth aircraft did not want to be uncovered by a passive detection system then all the on-board systems, radio location, transponders, and communications equipment, everything would have to be turned off.’
The Czech passive technology has another major advantage as well: it is difficult to detect and destroy because it does not use radar signals which guided missiles can traditionally lock onto. In other words, Věra can see but can’t be seen.
The system is also very mobile, can be set up on a new site within 30-40 minutes, and is usable in some of the toughest climates. Variations of the technology have been in service with the Czech army since the 1960’s. The latest equipment for NATO will be initially sited in northern Italy.
Indeed, Vera technology has made the headlines in the past when the Czech government stepped in to block the export of the detection equipment to China in 2004. One of the reasons was US opposition to the idea of such sensitive and advanced equipment being exported to a potential rival in the Pacific.
Věra is currently owned by the Czech arms exporting group Omnipol. The company’s forerunner was Tesla Pardubice, a company also known for fact that many former Czechoslovak ice hockey stars were theoretically on its books as employees.