The Czech Air Force's (CZAF) four troubled C-295M military transport aircraft have gained approval to conduct combat operations after successful completion of a testing and evaluation programme, the country's Defence Minister Vlastimil Picek revealed.
Picek was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying that the aircraft's anti-missile protection (DAS) system achieved excellent results during the testing, which concluded last week.
"At present, the Czech army has four full-fledged transport planes usable for a full spectrum of operations in the Czech Republic and abroad," Picek said.
The aircraft were acquired by CZAF from Airbus Military under a CZK3.5bn ($177m) deal, which also included a swap of five domestically manufactured L-159 subsonic fighter jets to Spain, in May 2009.
Primarily intended to replace the air force's ageing Soviet era Antonov An-26 fleet, the aircraft were repeatedly rejected and eventually grounded by the air force due to inefficiency of an Omnipol-supplied passive protection system against guided missile threats.
Despite problems with navigation systems, defensive aids systems and engine failures, the aircraft were still operated for training and transport flights.
A stretched variant of the ADS CASA CN-235 transporter, the C-295 is a tactical military transport aircraft designed to carry out tactical airlift, search-and-rescue, and maritime patrol and environmental surveillance missions in all-weather conditions.
Powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW127G turboprop engines, the aircraft features a high-wing, rear-loader design which enables easy loading of mission pallets, passengers, cargo, and litters for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC), communication and logistic duties or paratrooping operations.
The aircraft has also been sold to customers and operators in Algeria, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Poland, Portugal and Spain.
Image: A Czech Air Force's C-295M aircraft being displayed during Slovak International Air Fest 2012. Photo: courtesy of Andrej-airliner.