Hungarian Air Force (HuAF) - Modernization
By 1997 only about 60 of the Hungarian Air Force's 120 aircraft were flyable. At Kecskemet Air Base, the MiG-29 base in south central Hungary, of the regiment's 28 aircraft, only six or seven were flyable atany given time because of a shortage of money and spare parts. The pilots flew only 44 hours a year as compared to US F-16 fighter pilots who fly between 200 to 250 hours ayear. During the Warsaw Pact era, pilots made one to two times the salary of the average Hungarian worker, but by 1997 a bus driver made more money than a pilot.
As late as the mid-1990's, the Hungarian Air Force (HuAF) continued to operate its fleet of 28 MiG-29 aircraft based on Soviet training manuals published in the 1970s. Because of this, Hungarian pilots were still being taught an operational style based on choreographed maneuvering and GCI vectoring. In 1999, Hungary joined NATO and received assistance in many areas through participation in joint exercises and officer exchanges. The HuAF even received guidance from the German Luftwaffe based on its experiences in operating the MiG-29 in Western fashion. Despite such endeavors, the HuAF found progress slow due to technical and procedural barriers tied to their Soviet aircraft. These former Warsaw Pact MiG-29 aircraft are expensive to operate and maintain, lack essential NATO interoperability capabilities, and are nearing the end of their useful service lives.
Some 14 of the originally 28 MiG-29 were modernized between 2002 and 2004 to soldier on for some more years. As of 2003 the Hungarian air force had 27 MiG-29 fighters, and wished to maintain 14, but most of the engines needed renovation. There were reports in 2003 that the Russian RSK MiG Company may have employed Armaco Ltd, the firm of Péter Szalai, a retired brigadier general closely connected with the Hungarian Socialists, as adviser for HUF 140 million to prevent the commissioning of Russia's state arms merchant company, Roszoboron Export Holding for the renovation of Hungarian MiG-29a.
The MISTRAL air defense system was not introduced into service at the time of the Varsaw Pact time, given the export control procedures of that time. But it was the first Western-type air defense weapon system of the Hungarian Armed Forces. The weapon system was aquired before joining NATO. One of those units equipped with this weapon underwent a Capability Evaluation and subsequently it became the first designated deployable unit of the Hungarian Air Force that met the requirements of the Allied Forces. The initial efforts of the 12th Surface-to-Air Missile Wing (then 12th Air Defense Artillery) after taking over the weapon from the Land Forces in 2004 so as to make the main end items of the weapon system operational and interoperable for the intended employment in multinational environment.
In June 2001 the Government of Hungary requested a possible sale of four F-16A Block 10 operational capabilities upgrade aircraft for cannibalization and regeneration/upgrade of aircraft and engines, together with spare and repair parts, devices, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics personnel services and other related elements of logistics support in support of an F-16 lease. The estimated cost is $370 million. This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by improving the military capabilities of Hungary while enhancing weapon system standardization and interoperability with U.S. forces. This proposed sale and the associated lease aircraft will enhance NATO interoperability while simultaneously providing operational capabilities as the Soviet-era aircraft in Hungarian inventory are eventually retired. This proposed sale would not impact the regional military balance of power. It will also allow the HAF to meet training requirements, as well as national air defense and NATO commitments, starting in early 2004.
But later in 2001, the Hungarian Air Force decided to lease 14 brand-new, fourth-generation, Swedish-British JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft. Not only was this decision motivated by the desire to augment the military capabilities of the HuAF, but also by the need to break away from Soviet equipment and its associated modus operandi. The first Gripen aircraft were scheduled to arrive to Hungary in March 2006. Preparing for delivery of these aircraft and the Western technology/procedures that they infuse is significantly bolstering the HuAF's efforts to adopt NATO-style air operations.
On 30 September 2002, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified the US Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Hungary of AIM-9M-8/9 Sidewinder Missiles as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $55 million. The Government of the Republic of Hungary requested a possible sale of 160 AIM-9M-8/9 Sidewinder missiles, training missiles, All-Up-Round containers, software integration, test and tool sets, support equipment, maintenance facilities, spare and repair parts, personnel training and equipment, publications, U.S. Government and contractor engineering and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $55 million.
The third and final C-17 Globemaster III to complete the Heavy Airlift Wing aircraft inventory arrived 12 October 2009 and was welcomed by the Hungarian Chief of Defense General Laszlo Tombol and other civic leaders from the surrounding communities. The delivery of the third aircraft marks the completion of the HAW that has been in the buildup stage for the previous year. The first C-17 was delivered to Papa AB on July 18 and the second aircraft arrived here Sept. 21. The wing was officially activated in a multinational ceremony held July 27. The HAW's three aircraft meet the strategic airlift requirements of the 12 Strategic Airlift Capability member nations for missions in support of NATO, the European Union and the U.N. One of the wing's current primary obligations is to support the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
The Hungarian government put plans forward to modernize its air force, it was revealed 16 August 2017. Technical modernization of the air force is a priority goal within the armed forces’ technical development program, the chief of staff said. According to MTI, four Zlin light training and reconnaissance aircraft have already been purchased to replace outdated Yak-52 training aircraft and tendering is already under way for the acquisition of another four Zlins, Tibor Benko said.
Next to the two two-seater Zlin-242L training aircraft presented in the summer of 2017, in 2018 the two four-seat Zlin-143 LSi aircraft arrived at the MH 86 Szolnok Helicopter Base, which was purchased by the Hungarian Defense Forces, directly from the manufacturer Zlín. “The two two-seater and two four-seater aircraft are perfect for basic aircraft training for future aircraft drivers, including airplane flying, instrument flight and night flight. The equipments of the machines, the cockpit and instrumentation according to the requirements of the 21st century allow the future pilots to master the use of modern integrated instrument systems. The machines are also low height visual, observation, urgent to carry one or two passengers, also suitable for small items.
The Dassault Falcon 7X aircraft, which can be used as a lightweight multipurpose carrier and courier, has been upgraded to the Air Force of the Hungarian Defense Forces. "The three-engine aircraft capable of over saturated air corridors up to 15 thousand meters of altitude to fly, a top speed approaching the speed of sound (950 km / h), 11 thousand kilometer range and enables up to implement flights between the continents. Falcon 7X is also required for the provision of diplomatic courier services, because this sovereignty is lost when the national airline Malév is lost. The second aircraft device can be adapted to the design and operation of the air traffic control point with the possibility of additional modular systems.
In 2017 the ministry purchased two used Airbus A319 aircraft which the armed forces will use for troop transport and evacuations. The transport planes, which will be in service this spring. The aircraft can carry military personnel and their individual equipment, as well as smaller supplies. They will also be equipped with capabilities to carry out air rescue missions. According to plans, they will be used to transport a Hungarian troop rotation to Afghanistan next spring, Dr. István Simicskó said. Minister of Defence Dr. István Simicskó said December 21, 2017 that although new A319 aircraft are priced at EUR 70-80 million, the HDF have purchased these two 8-9-year-old planes at less than half of that price. Dr. István Simicskó said that the aim is to ensure the continuous and phased development of the Hungarian Defence Forces, in the interest of which the Zrínyi 2026 National Defence and Armed Forces Development Program has been worked out. The purchase of these aircraft will put an end to an “unworthy and shameful” situation in which Hungary is at the mercy of others, the minister stated.
The cost of purchase does not only cover the aircraft but also the training and preparation of aircrews and ground crews, and the creation of operating conditions at Kecskemét air base. The Chief of Defence said that the Airbuses are troop transport aircraft capable of being used for a range of military missions. First and foremost, they serve to transport personnel and their individual equipment, but they are also suitable for the evacuation of patients and casualties from areas of operations and disaster-stricken areas.
Hungary needs larger aircraft as well, which are capable of carrying large military supplies and equipment and fitted with aerial refueling capability. Simicskó told the press that the An-26 transport planes are 40-45 years old, so they must be replaced, and therefore a tender will be announced for the purchase of new transport aircraft. The Minister of Defence stated that the next period will see some “substantial changes” concerning the airlift capability of the Hungarian Defence Forces. Chief of Defence Gen. Dr. Tibor Benko noted that due to the shortfalls in proper air transport capacity, the Hungarian Defence Forces have already been left at the mercy of others in several situations, for example in Iraq during a flight ban imposed on civil air traffic. This year the HDF had to rent airplanes on 55 occasions. Moreover, in 2016 and 2017, there had been several occasion when troops had to be urgently transported home from areas of operations, he added.
On 20 December 2018 Airbus Defence and Space was awarded a contract to provide Hungary Air Force with a Surface-to-Air Missile Operations Center (SAMOC). This complete infrastructure will allow country-wide coordination, at a strategic level, of all Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) assets. SAMOC guarantees common situational awareness on attached units, using synchronization and distribution of the relevant data via the operational Mission Data Base, and the delivery of consistent information on subordinated levels.
The solution covers mission planning and analysis, mission preparation, execution and monitoring as well as training. It enables the whole Battle Management Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (BMC4I) cycle for a Ground Based Air Defence cluster in a sole system.
“This contract is the materialization of a trustful professional relationship that has been developed with Hungarian Air Force following in depth discussions between Airbus and highly experienced Hungarian military operational experts throughout the last 2 years, supported by life demonstration of the system in use by German Air Force” says Harald Mannheim, Head of Defence Solutions of the Intelligence Business at Airbus Defence and Space. “With SAMOC, they will benefit from a successfully fielded and combat proven Air Defence Management System, which has already demonstrated its performance in several NATO exercises”.
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