State-owned Konštrukta Defence, maker of the Zuzana howitzer, is calling for a meeting of its copyright holders on Monday after claims that Czech company Excalibur Army plagiarised the artillery system to make its Dita howitzer, a direct competition for Ukraine exports.
The claims were first made by Roman Bobaľ, the highest-ranking Slovak artilleryman, who also serves as chairman of NATO’s Integrated Capability Group on Indirect Fire.
“I consider the Dita to be a plagiarism of our 155mm self-propelled gun-howitzer, the Model 2000 Zuzana. The maker of the Dita changed only the shell,” Bobal told Denník N.
Excalibur Army, a part of the CSG holding company belonging to arms dealer Michal Strnad, has denied allegations that their new howitzer, Dita, is a copy of the Slovak Zuzana. They claim that both models are merely derived from a common base, which is the Czechoslovak Dana howitzer.
Nevertheless, Konštrukta Defence announced it wants to convene a meeting of the owners of the rights to the Zuzana 2000 howitzer on Monday.
The Zuzana 2000 howitzer is a previous version of the Zuzana 2, which Slovakia also produces for Ukraine. Most of the production rights are owned by Konštrukta Defence and the Ministry of Economy, with a smaller part belonging to the Defence Ministry.
Although Slovakia no longer produces the Zuzana 2000, the more modern Zuzana 2, currently among the world’s top artillery systems, or its lighter version called EVA, are important elements in the Slovak arms industry. Recently, Konštrukta Defence signed a contract with Ukraine to co-develop custom versions of the howitzer and supply them to Ukraine. The new Czech howitzer presents a direct competition.
Bobaľ claims he repeatedly alerted the military intelligence to the possible plagiarism at least two and a half years ago. Later, he also discussed this information with the previous Minister of Defence, Jaroslav Naď. The ministry’s latest statement is that the suspicions “have not been confirmed to date”.
The current situation presents a rare conflict and could potentially damage the good relations between the Czech and Slovak defence industries. The situation is particularly sensitive, as the Slovak deal to produce the custom howitzers for Ukraine is already threatened by the election frontrunner Smer promising to end all military support to the country.
Source : EURACTIV