(NSI News Source Info) PRAGUE - March 14, 2009: The Czech defence ministry said March 13 it had signed a deal worth 539 million euros ($700 million) with U.S. giant General Dynamics for the purchase of 107 Pandur II armoured vehicles. The Pandur II 8 X 8 is an improved modular all-wheel-drive version of the Pandur 6X6 APC wheeled armoured vehicle. It was developed as a private venture by the Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeuge and is currently in production for the Portuguese Armed Forces. Steyr-Daimler-Puch Spezialfahrzeuge is part of General Dynamics European Land Combat Systems, which is also the parent company of Mowag of Switzerland and Santa Bárbara Sistemas of Spain. The vehicles will be made by Austria's Steyr Daimler Puch, a General Dynamics subsidiary. A first batch of 17 Pandur II will be delivered to the Czech army by the end of the year, with the remainder to be rolled out by 2013. "It is symbolic that we are signing this contract as the Czech Republic is marking the 10th anniversary of joining NATO," said Deputy Defense Minister Martin Bartak after the signing ceremony. Prague initially signed a 798 million euro deal in June 2006 for 199 armored vehicles but it scrapped the order in December 2007 because of problems during testing. Early last year, the government decided to give Steyr Daimler Puch a second chance but scaled down the order. The Pandur II is to replace the outdated OT-64 armored vehicle which the then communist-run Czechoslovak army introduced in the 1960s. It will be used by Czech army units on domestic and overseas assignments, the ministry said.
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