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BREAKING NEWS

Czechs pick Bell for $622 million army helicopter deal

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PRAGUE (Reuters) – The Czech Republic will buy 12 military helicopters from U.S. maker Bell in a deal priced at 14.5 billion crowns ($622 million), Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar said on Thursday.

The Czech Republic, a NATO member, has pledged to raise defence spending to 1.4% of gross domestic product in 2021 and 2% by 2024, from 1.2% this year.

The deal includes the utility Venom aircraft and the attack Viper aircraft, which share most of their parts. Bell is a unit of Textron. The Czech Army was choosing between Bell and Lockeed Martin’s Sikorsky in the deal which also includes weaponry and ammunition shipments.

“It will be eight Venoms and four Vipers,” Metnar told reporters on a trip to a military base, in remarks broadcast on Czech Television.

News agency CTK said Metnar expected to sign a contract by the end of the year and delivery was due in 2023.

The country’s defence spending plan includes accelerated replacement of Soviet-era equipment. In the largest tender announced so far, worth an estimated $2 billion, the army is also choosing the supplier of 210 infantry fighting vehicles.

Czech troops are currently deployed in several missions abroad, including in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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