Following the collapse the Warsaw Pact and dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic has become a member of NATO and its army has been transformed into an all-professional force intended both to defend its sovereign territory and participate in foreign deployments either with NATO or the EU. Two new publications from Tankograd Publishing (the 2nd part reviewed separately) cover the new Czech Army with its eclectic range of equipment ranging from the standard Warsaw Pact gear to newly-purchased equipment from other European countries. As befits a country with a history of the manufacture of heavy equipment, there are many indigenous vehicles and some unique conversions serving alongside them.
The current organization of the Czech Army is outlined in the Introduction, the remainder of the 64 page book is devoted to 132 previously unpublished colour photographs of equipment, mainly photographed in the field, described with informative captions. Photographs are always of the entire vehicle, there are no close-up detail views. The book is written in both German and English text throughout, in line with most of Tankograd Publications’ productions, with the English translations reflecting the German text well. Coverage in the book is arranged by unit, which is useful as it shows the full range of vehicles deployed, though actual TO&Es are lacking, which is something I miss. Sections include:
Mechanized Forces Rapid Deployment Forces NBC Defense Communications Tank Active Reserve Fire Department Military Police Field Hospital Air Base and Helicopters
Rather than list everything shown in each section, I’ve only summarized the highlights below.
"7th Mechanized Brigade" Photographs cover the full range of vehicles used, including softskins. The basic infantry carrier is the BVP-2, a license-built version of the BMP-2, which is shown in both basic khaki and Czech seasonal camouflage. Most of the support vehicles are derived from old BVP-1s (BMP-1), converted into reconnaissance version (BRDM-2 turret), ambulances, command vehicles and some remarkable-looking 120mm mortar carriers on extended hulls. Heavy support is provided by the T-72M4CZ, a heavily modified and re-engined version of the Warsaw Pact stalwart. Soft vehicles are various versions of the ubiquitous Tatra and Praga.
"4th Rapid Deployment Brigade" As befits its status there are more unarmoured vehicles, including new Land Rover Defender 110s, together with a mixture of old and new communications carriers. The armour here is provided by further BVP-2s.
"102 Reconnaissance Brigade" Equipped with modified BVP-1s (retaining the 73mm gun) and UAVs, which are transported on Tatra 4X4s and recovered by Land Rover Defender 90s.
"31st NBC Defense Brigade" A variety of old and new kit shown with the old BRDM-2RCh (BRDM-2RKm) supported by new reconnaissance vehicles based on the Land Rover. Decontamination and other support vehicles are also covered.
Other coverage includes the Tank Active Reserve unit with some more elderly T-72s and the Military Police. This section includes a gunship version of the Tatra T815 intended for use in Afghanistan. The volume winds down with Air Force support vehicles and Hospital Base units including the last few OT-64 8-wheeled APCs converted into armoured ambulances and soon to be replaced. There is short section on tactical camouflage which is largely based on washable tactical schemes applied seasonally, which guarantees a wide range of patterns. Finally the helicopters of the Czech Air Force are shown, these are old Warsaw Pact favourites, the Mi24 and Mi-17, together with the Polish Sokol W-3A, all painted in a three-tone scheme consisting of two greys and olive green.
The remaining units and future developments are covered in Part 2.
All in all, the book shows a mixed bag of equipment that reflects the history of the Czech Armed Forces. I wasn’t sure when I started reading the book how much it would interest me, but it brought back quite a few memories of the '80s when I was very interested in the subject of Warsaw Pact armies. Of course the depth of the coverage available then was nothing like as impressive as this book, and who at that time would have predicted that the Czech Republic would have become a part of NATO?
Thanks to Tankograd Publishing for providing the review copy.
Highs: Excellent photographs showing a wide range of vehicles, including old Warsaw Pact, modern European and some unique Czech conversions. Some coverage of the organization of the modern Czech Army. Dual German/English text.Lows: May be a little obscure for some, and there are no detailed TO&Es which I would have liked.Verdict: Shows how one army is meeting the challenge of transforming itself from the days of the Cold War. Usual excellent photgraphic coverage that we've come to expect from Tankograd.
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About David Maynard (Drader) FROM: WALES, UNITED KINGDOM
From south Wales originally, I became an archaeologist by chance and have continued being one for about 20 years. Which is a lot of mud shifted. The nursing home where I was born is now part of the Celtic Manor and, by a nice bit of irony, I did the archaeology for several of their golf courses. I h...