The Ministry of Defense for Slovakia is hoping to receive government clearance for an armored infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV) procurement. The Defense Ministry intends to request cabinet approval for the purchase of Vydra (‘Otter’) 8×8 AIFVs. Ultimately the Defense Ministry plans to procure 81 such vehicles at the cost of roughly EUR400 million ($460 million), though an initial batch procurement may be limited to 17 units.
The 8×8 Vydra vehicles are part of a larger replacement plan for the Slovak Army’s inventory of Soviet-legacy BMP-1 and BMP-2 models that average 50 years in service. The other element in the long-term replacement plan involves the procurement of 404 smaller 4×4 AIFV models. The aim is to procure both models by 2029.
Gaining clearance for the procurement should be relatively easy as the government previously voted in favor of the Finnish Patria Armored Modular Vehicle (AMV) chassis as the basis for a prototype of the new wheeled IFV on November 15, 2017. State-owned defense company Konstrukta Defence then unveiled its prototype Vydra 8×8 model on December 6, 2017, which featured an indigenously-designed EVPU Turra unmanned turret equipped with a Russian 2A42 30mm automatic cannon.
Altogether a contract for the Vydra would involve up to 16 Slovak firms and one Czech defense company through the series-production cycle, thus providing a boost to Slovakia’s struggling local defense sector which has continued a long decline since the collapse of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the former Czechoslovakia under the “Velvet Divorce” of January 1, 1993, with the Czech Republic.
A full 81-unit order for the 8×8 Vydra will include the standard IFV variant, as well as armored command-and-control, communications, engineering, armored recovery and armored ambulance variants. The Slovak Defense Ministry hopes to secure delivery of the entire lot of these vehicles between 2019 and 2024.
After years and years of thorough neglect of its armed forces, Slovakia is on a slow, but sustained reversal of course. Decades of budgetary neglect left the Slovak Armed Forces little more than a constabulary force charged with some out-of-theater missions. Following Russia’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 the Slovak government sought to reverse the armed forces’ slide into disrepair and wean it off dependence upon Russian-sourced equipment by taking a fresh effort at modernization. The AIFV procurement forms one part of this larger recapitalization effort.