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Czech Republic inks deal with Israel to buy air defense system

Sale worth hundreds of millions of dollars of Rafael’s SPYDER surface-to-air missile battery is meant to update Prague’s aging, Soviet-era anti-aircraft weapons

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A SPYDER surface-to-air missile is fired in a test in an undated photograph. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.)
A SPYDER surface-to-air missile is fired in a test in an undated photograph. (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.)

The Czech Republic has signed a deal with Israel to purchase a new air defense system from a state-owned defense contractor, the Defense Ministry said.

The ministry announced Saturday night that the long-discussed sale had been signed for the SPYDER, a low- to high-altitude surface-to-air missile system. According to the manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd, the system is “designed to counter attacks by a variety of aerial threats including aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.”

According to the ministry, the Czechs will purchase four SPYDER batteries, and negotiations regarding the exact price and terms have begun.

The Czech defense ministry expects the deal to be worth some $430 million and to be finalized early in 2021, with the delivery coming two years later.

The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed the agreement would be “valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Czech Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar said the Israeli system would be key to modernizing the Czech armed forces.

It would replace an obsolete anti-aircraft Soviet-era 2K12 KUB system to defend military and civilian centers such as industrial hubs, nuclear power plants, airports and other important facilities.

“We thank the Czech government for their partnership and for the decision to equip their military with Israeli air defense systems. This is another significant step in strengthening security relations between our two countries, and it is also great news for Israeli defense industries during such a complex period,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said of the agreement.

The SPYDER system includes a radar array produced by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries.

The Czech military said it had analyzed nine systems from seven producers before deciding on the Israeli one.

“We are very proud to have been selected to provide SPYDER systems to the Czech Republic through a government-to-government process. The decision to select SPYDER, developed and produced by Rafael, is a significant vote of confidence in our proven air defense capabilities demonstrated over the years,” said Ariel Karo, executive vice president of marketing and business development for Rafael.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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