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Czech Republic to procure Israeli-made air defenses to replace old Soviet gear

European nation’s defense ministry says it will pay $630 million for 4 Spyder batteries produced by state-run Rafael

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.)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — The Czech government said Monday it would buy four Spyder short-range air defense system batteries from Israel by 2026 to replace obsolete Soviet-made weapons.

The purchase comes as the country seeks to upgrade its military equipment — and further boost ties with Israel, already a close Czech ally.

The defense ministry said it would pay 13.7 billion Czech crowns (540 million euros, $630 million) for the system made by Israeli state-run company Rafael.

The contract also involves supplies by Czech companies amounting to more than 30 percent of its value.

The ministry added in a statement that it had considered nine different systems from seven producers.

“Israel’s Spyder emerged as the most efficient one from the comparison. It is a solution adjusted to Czech needs, compatible with NATO standards and with the involvement of Czech industry,” it said.

Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar hailed the purchase as a step towards getting rid of a Soviet-made system from the 1970s which “does not correspond to current air defense standards.”

The Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, 10 years after former Czechoslovakia shed the totalitarian Communist regime that had been in power for four decades.

In the past year, ties between Israel and the European nation have become closer.

Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek visited Israel in May in a show of solidarity during the recent round of fighting with the Hamas terror group. In March, the Czech Republic opened the Jerusalem office of its embassy after announcing its plans to do so in December 2020.

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