WARSAW, Poland — The Czech Republic’s defense minister says the country may acquire new self-propelled howitzers made by a NATO member state.

The purchase of 50 new howitzers is estimated to be worth up to 10 billion koruna (U.S. $490 million), according to the information obtained by local news agency CTK.

The announcement comes shortly after Defence Minister Karla Slechtova decided to cancel a contract worth some 1.23 billion koruna under which the country’s defense industry giant Czechoslovak Group was to modernize the Czech military’s DANA howitzers.

Slechtova said the howitzers “do not comply with NATO standards regarding their range and caliber” and that “this does not justify the performance of a public procurement.”

Under the initial plan, Czechoslovak Group was to upgrade 33 DANA howitzers by 2020, and the Defence Ministry would acquire 17 new howitzers to boost the Czech military’s artillery capability.

Designed in the 1970s by Czechoslovakia’s state-run defense industry, the self-propelled howitzer is fitted with a 152mm gun.

In 2018, the Czech Republic’s military expenditure is to total 58.9 billion koruna, an increase of 12 percent compared with a year earlier, according to data from the ministry.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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