Malacky AB, Slovakia
A memorandum of agreement, signed 09 February 1999, by former USAFE Commander Gen. John P. Jumper and Slovakia's State Secretary for Minister of Defense Jozef Pivarci, gives US fighter pilots access to the republic's Kuchyna Bombing Range and Malacky Air Base, located about 25 kilometers east of the Austrian border. This allows USAFE to shorten the distance pilots and support crews travel for low-level flying and air-to-ground range training, something not readily available in central Europe. US aircraft typically had to travel to Spain, Tunisia or Turkey to conduct such training. The memorandum took almost two years to develop. Pivarci, a strong supporter of the agreement, said complex negotiations were taking place to show that Slovakia was sincere in its interest to one day join NATO. The Slovak air force is receiving partial funding to upgrade its airfield and range operations, and joint training should improve interoperability and familiarization between pilots from the two nations.
For fighters in Europe, this opens up a new air-to-ground range in a lot closer proximity to where they live, so it's going to make deployments cheaper and easier. Fighters are limited to 1,000 feet in Germany. Now, they will be able to work low-level flying. Slovakia has a low-level route structure to allow flying down to a minimum of 500 feet, which is significantly lower than what they can do at home.
Approximately 200 US airmen and 10 Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 23rd Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, arrived at Malacky AB, Slovakia 01 April 2000 for a two-week deployment. A bi-lateral agreement between Slovakia and the United States for support from the Slovak air force at Malacky and use of the nearby Kuchyna bombing range allows US pilots in Europe to expand their training while strengthening ties of friendship between the two nations. For the Slovak air force, the agreement means partial funding for airfield and range operations, interoperability and familiarization between pilots from the two nations, and closer military ties to the United States and possibly other NATO-member nations. The US Air Force tentatively plans to deploy to the base three times during 2000 year in two-week increments. With the exception of aircraft noise during those two-week periods, use of the range by the United States will not be heard by neighboring communities. Slovak aircraft normally drop live munitions on these ranges, and a Memorandum of Understanding between both countries allows US fighters to do the same. US aircraft did not drop live munitions on this first deployment. Instead, the F-16s dropped non-explosive munitions on the range. The F-16s carried live rounds on aircraft guns and train by firing on ground targets on the range.
In September 2000 Air Force airmen from Aviano Air Base, Italy, honed their war fighting skills in former Communist Bloc territory as part of Iron Claw, a training exercise in Slovakia. About 250 people and 13 F-16 fighter jets from 31st Fighter Wing deployed for two weeks to practice bombing missions on the Kuchyna Bombing Range. With MiG-21s and SU-22s -- aircraft built to oppose US forces -- parked benignly in the background, the Buzzards began launching into Slovak skies Sept. 11 for the first of about 180 planned sorties. The 75-minute missions took the 510th FS pilots into airspace above the Kuchyna bombing range, located a few kilometers from the base. The range, renovated earlier this year during previous deployments by units from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, presents pilots with mock targets like F-16s, fuel and ammunition depots, and anti-aircraft gun emplacements.
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