On Friday, Mar. 17, 2023, the prime minister of the Slovak Republic Eduard Heger announced that Slovakia will donate almost its entire fleet of already grounded MiG-29 (NATO reporting name: Fulcrum) aircraft to Ukraine. However, Slovakia will not be alone with the donation. As already reported, Poland has also confirmed that will immediately donate four Fulcrums, with rest being donated later (after the necessary overhauls will take place). The whole donation process was tightly discussed at the NATO meeting in Ramstein Air Base. The Slovak-Polish donation will be coordinated by both sides.
The rumors that Slovak Air Force would donate their fighter fleet to its eastern neighbor have been circulating since the war in Ukraine began. After the Fulcrums were grounded in Slovakia in September 2022, it became more than evident that such a step would happen sooner or later. The delivery of the jets is legally based on the treaty, signed between Slovakia and Ukraine just a few days before the prime minister confirmed the donation. However, not all Slovak Fulcrums are flyable. At least one aircraft will probably be delivered to a local museum as well (either the Military history museum in Piešťany or Aviation museum in Košice).
As a result of the donation Slovakia will receive unspecified US military systems worth $ 700 000 000. “This is mainly due to the fact that several countries applied for that technology, and Slovakia was the one that won this competition,” the Minister of Defense Jaroslav Naď commented on the unspecified systems delivery, adding that it should be made public within matter of days.
The Slovak Air Force obtained nine MiG-29A and one MiG-29UB after the split of the Czechoslovak republic. Fulcrums were serving alongside MiG-21s (that were retired from service in 2000s) as the backbone of Slovak aircraft defense. During the 1990s Russia delivered 12 MiG-29As and 2 MiG-29UBs to pay off its debt to Slovakia, increasing the MiGs fleet. However, due to the economic situation, for a couple of years only five aircraft were flyable most of the time.
Ten MiG-29As and two MiG-29UBs were modernized into versions AS and UBS in 2006 and entered service in 2008. The modernization included installation of NATO communication systems, therefore making the aircraft suitable for NATINAMDS. The unmodernized aircraft were later grounded. The modernized aircraft will probably be downgraded to the standard A version before being sent to Ukraine. Four aircraft crashed during their service within the Slovak Air Force.
The overall bad condition, problems with overhauling (that was done directly by the RSK MiG company) and lack of spare parts meant that the number of flyable MiG-29s decreased in the latest years. In 2018 the Slovak government decided to purchase 14 F-16 Block 70/72 aircraft (with the first two aircraft scheduled to arrive next year). As told above, Slovak Fulcrums were finally grounded in September 2022 – mostly due to the fact that the RSK MiG company’s engineers went back to the Russian Federation, therefore the aircraft were left without the needed maintenance personnel. Air policing over Slovakia is currently undertaken by Slovakia’s neighbors – Czech Republic, Hungary (both nations use JAS-39C/D Gripens) and Poland (F-16).
Along with the Fulcrums Slovakia will donate several SAM systems 2K12 Kub (SA-6 Gainful). The Slovak Air Force currently operates four SA-6 batteries. As already reported, the lone battery of the S-300PMU was donated in April. The current Slovak anti-aircraft strategic defense mainly consists of international systems – German and Dutch Patriot systems. The American Patriot system, formerly stationed in Kuchyňa Air Base, will be soon replaced by the Italian SAMP/T system. Along with the MiGs and S-300 battery the Slovak Air Force also provided Ukraine with four Mil Mi-17 Hips and one Mil Mi-2 Hoplite in June (the helicopters were already withdrawn from the service). In the past Slovakia has also delivered its lone Antonov An-12 transport aircraft (in 1999) and 11 attack aircraft Sukhoi Su-22 (in 2000) – in both cases the aircraft were delivered to Angola.
Photo credit: Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic
Sources:aktuality.sk, pravda.sk and mosr.sk
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