USA support Czech project for training of allied helicopter pilots

Autor: Oldrich Holecek

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta expressed his support for the Czech project to build the Multi-National Air Training Centre. During a visit of Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra in Washington on 24 January 2012, the politicians also discussed further deployment of units in Afghanistan.

"I think, that Americans are very glad that somebody is here with the real concept, with the project which is going on at present and will go on more intensively in future," Alexandr Vondra said after the talks in the Pentagon.

The Multi-National Air Training Centre would offer basic, advance and combat training of helicopter pilots, instructors and ground personnel not only for the Alliance but also other military partners. Alexandr Vondra wants to get an international support for the project, and at the same time he plans to propose it as a contribution to the Alliance initiative Smart Defence.

The Czech Republic is no beginner in the area of helicopter equipment within the Alliance. Since 2009, it has been a lead nation of the NATO Hip Helicopter Task Force initiative which boosts cooperation of countries equipped with Mi-family helicopters. During 2010 and 2011, the Czech Republic successfully deployed three transport Mi-171S helicopters in Afghanistan. Besides that, since August 2011 the Air Training Centre in Pardubice has been preparing pilots of the Afghan Air Force. Also American soldiers participate in the training.

Secretary Panetta highlighted the role of Czech soldiers on ISAF operation and at the same time he asked for prolonging the Czech deployment in Afghanistan. "We share opinion that we came in together and leave also together," Vondra revealed, adding that he made a promise to Panetta that soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic will serve in Afghanistan also in 2013 a 2014. "I’ll propose to the government and the Czech Parliament to have a mandate for some presence of our soldiers there for the two years," Vondra confirmed to the media.

Politicians also discussed financial situation of both militaries and U.S. plans to decrease its military presence in Europe while defining the Asia-Pacific region as the major area of interest. "But in this respect, the assurance was right clear – Americans do not leave their European allies for sure," Vondra said.

Posted: January 28, 2012