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Slovak Republic - Air Force Modernization

The Slovak Air Force succeeded in modernising the Radar Surveillance System through the upgrading of the existing P-37 radars. By 2005, the system operated reliably and it fulfilled all duties which arise from membership in NATO. There was some lobbying effort to buy new systems but the Air Force had to consider the financial balance of both the Defence Ministry and the Slovak Republic. It was the right move to do and it was relatively inexpensive.

To go into more detail, six modernised operational and fully compatible radars were obtained for an average price of a single new one. The other radars would also undergo modernisationin stages. Another good example is the setting up of the Air Operations Command and Control Centre in Zvolen.

By 2018 the Slovak military was still using obsolete military radars produced in the former Soviet Union, the lifetime of which has already reached its end. At the same time, the manufacturer can no longer supply replacement parts or provide upgrades due to ongoing sanctions against Russia.

In February 2018 the Defence Ministry halted the international tender for the purchase of 3D radars. The department announced the tender under former minister, Martin Glvc of Smer. In response, the ex-minister said, as quoted by the Sme daily, that he does not understand why the ministry would cancel it. The ministry claimed they disliked the fact that in more than two years, not even the first round of the tender had been completed, and thus, the tender failed to achieve a result. The international competition was launched in 2015, with four candidates in the first round. The estimated contract value was 60 million excluding VAT.

By 2005 the Armed Forces were planning to renew its fleet of transport aircraft as soon as possible, whereas helicopters would follow next; the final wave would see the replacement of fighter aircraft. Transport aircraft required the most immediate replacement. The Slovak Armed Forces had two AN 24 and two AN 26 cargo aircraft. Those aircraft had been put to maximum use, and their flight hours have reached 126% of design life.

By March 2008 a council of experts headed by the Slovak NAD was reviewing Slovak Air Force requirements and once the "most suitable one" had been identified, the government would issue a tender. The Government would prefer to finance the purchase over a 8-10 year period and would seek direct offsets, per a new government policy (not law) requiring offsets in any projects whose value exceeds 6 million Euro.

On 22 December 2008 it was announced by the Slovakian Ministry of Defence that the C-27J had been selected as the future tactical transport aircraft. Negotiations for the procurement of two aircraft and arrangements for offset agreements proved protracted, and the agreement was signed only in 2014. Part of the contract includes five-years of logistics support. The first of two Spartan C-27J military cargo aircraft for the Armed Forces arrived in Slovakia 25 October 2017. "From the perspective of modernising our armed forces, this is another historical event. After the last [Antonov] An-26 aircraft was dismantled, our air force did not have a transport aircraft with such capacity," says defence minister Peter Gajdo.

The first real deployment of the Slovak C-27J Spartan transport aircraft was carried out by crew under the command of the commander of the first wing of the transport wing of the transport corridor Major Kuchyn Stanislav tovka on 14 March 2018 shortly after the day, on the route Sliac - Larnaca (Cyprus). The flight was scheduled for XXXV transportation. rotation of UN peacekeeping mission UNFICYP. At Sliac airport, trained personnel from the tactical wing Sliac took care of loading the oversized cargo. Another first prize was given to the Flight Squadron Flight Squadron, by the first operational flight C-27J from Sliac airport.

The SVK Government on 27 May 2020 endorsed the Defence Minister's proposal to cancel the 4x4 Multirole Tactical Vehicle procurement programme. In parallel to this, it also approved the start of procurement for essential restoration and refurbishment of Kuchyna Air Base. On the refurbishment of Kuchyna Air Base, the Minister explained that the main reason for that is the need to create enough parking stands for C-27J Spartan airlifters and Let L-410 Turbolet transport aircraft. "Apart from this, we will need to move aircraft from Sliac Air Base, which we must prepare for the arrival of F-16 fighter jets. Therefore, at Kuchyna we will restore the airfield operational surfaces and adjust infrastructure to meet the current requirements. We plan to go ahead with the renovation this year already," he said.

According to a Government-approved document, the refurbishment and extension of the existing operational aprons and the installation of the airfield drainage and ground lighting systems will be part of airfield works at Kuchyna Air Base. The total costs associated with the design documentation for the construction permit procedure and the implementation of works are estimated at 5,042,118.66, VAT included.

MiG-29 Fighter Replacement

In the year 2000 when the new Slovak Air Force Concept was initiated, which later became part of Model 2010, it was decided that MiG-29 fighters would be retained for the next decade. Then, it would be necessary to do decide about the fate ofsupersonic aircraft within the Armed Forces. Of course, the economic results of the country would also have to be taken into account.

Both the Parliamentary Committee on Defence andSecurity and NATO approved the Concept during the pre-accession negotiations in 2003. Brussels agreed that the fighter aircraft would only be used for the defence of the Slovak airspace, and from 2006, also for the defence of NATOs integrated airspace. On September 16, 2005, at Sliac Air Base, a group of Russian experts finished making a group of 12 fighter aircraft operational according to the schedule.

The modernization of the MiG aircraft includes, among other things, installing new navigation and communications systems as well as the Identification Friend-Foe System (IFF). This system made friend-foe recognition possible. Both the Russian aircraft producer and the American IFF system manufacturer approved the project. Poles and Hungarians retained their MiG-29 fighter aircraft at least till the end of 2010. They had had to solve similar problems. The same identification system has been in use with F-16 aircraft.

The financial aspect cannot be neglected. The modernizations final costs in the case of all 12 fighter aircraft amounted to around Skk 2.1 billion. This figure was written off the Russian debt. Once the modernization of MiG-29 fighter aircraft had been over, a single flight hour cost Slovak tax payers around Skk 100,000.00, which was less than that of Czech tax payers, since a single flight hour of the Swedish Gripen, the Czechs bought on hire purchase, amounted to around Skk 544,000.00. Hungarians, who also bought Gripen fighters, also have to take the same costs into account. To compare, a new Eurofighter cost Austrian tax payers more than Skk 4 billion.

This enabled the Slovak Air Force to operate modernised machines that meet all NATO requirements at least until 2010 or even with the view to 2015, yet without putting additional constraints on defence ministrys budget. There would be plenty of time to consider purchasing new aircraft. The Air Force was successful in increasing thenumber of flight hours for each pilot, raising them from 17 back in 1998 to 60 flight hours by 2005 (however, MiG-29 pilots were not be able to reach the figure in 2005 year due tothe aircraft upgrades).

In NATO member countries there are around 180 flight hours on average per pilot flying multiple-purpose aircraft. The Slovak Air Force aimed to gradually achieve the final level of 100 flight hours by 2010. The reason for that dwells in the fact that Slovak machines are not multiple-purpose aircraft; therefore, it is not necessary to use them to carry out such extensive training. There were only a few of them (12 pieces) and there are no plans whatsoever to operate with them outside Slovakia.

By late December 2015 the Defense Ministry had agreed with their Swedish partners on conditions including flying hours for the rental of Swedish Gripen jet fighters. The offer included the lease of eight Gripen fighters to Slovakia (six C model single-seaters and two D model two-seaters) for an undisclosed price for a total of 1,200 flight hours per year.

But elections in March 2016 saw a change of government including the Slovak National Party. The new prime minister Robert Fico praised the capabilities of the MiG-29 aircraft. Thus on 02 June 2016 recently appointed Slovak defence minister Peter Gajdos rejected the latest offer for the lease of eight Saab Gripen fighters. "For me it is unacceptable how the Swedes are negotiating with us from a legislative and legal perspective. The asking price is also unacceptable".

By early 2016 the Czech Republic was considering a joint squadron of Saab Gripen fighters with Hungary, after the initial plan to operate such a squadron with Slovakia was postponed. Slovakia had planned on leasing the Swedish fighter, but then decided to extend the service life of the Russian-made Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft. The Czechs looked elsewhere to boost regional defense cooperation, which may result in their combining their 14 leased Gripens with the Hungarians 12 operable ones.

Shortly before the 2016 election, then Minister Glvac claimed that the deal with the Swedes was almost agreed. He left his successor a proposal for a comprehensive agreement, which only had to agree on some "legislative and financial details". "We have a rental offer from Sweden that suits us," Glovac said.

The SVK Ministry of Defence recommended that the SVK Cabinet approve the continuation of the SVK Air Force MiG-29 fleet operation until such time as the U.S. F-16 C/D Block 70 fighter jets are delivered. This conclusion followed on from a detailed analysis of the alternatives proposed for securing the protection of SVK airspace, which had been drafted by the MOD and was submitted to the SVK Cabinet for deliberations and approval.

In processing the analysis, SVK Air Force and MOD Armaments Department specialists identified two alternatives for securing SVK airspace. While Alternative 1 envisaged cooperation with NATO Member States with a temporary loss of the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) capability by the SVK Air Force, Alternative 2 meant the continuation of the MiG-29 fleet operation either in collaboration with the Republic of Poland or the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (RSK MiG).

Having costed and evaluated both alternatives while taking account of the technical condition of the MiG-29 fleet, applicable legislation, training of SVK AF pilots and ground personnel, the signing of an Amendment Agreement with RSK MiG, which would be in force between 16 November 2019 to 31 December 2023 with an option to extend it by 1 year, turned out to be the most effective and economical solution.

In February 2017, Slovakia and the Czech Republic signed an agreement between the Czech Republic and Slovakia on mutual protection of airspace. The agreement also includes the sharing of capacities in the area of ??maintenance and training of pilots in case the Slovak Republic decides to purchase Gripen aircraft. The training is scheduled to begin in 2019, with approximately 22 pilots and more than 150 maintenance staff members participating. The MoD SR has already selected the first six fighter pilot candidates. They receive training in the USA. The Defense Department has declared that they will be able to prepare for new fighters. The purchase of new supersonic aircraft represents an investment of more than EUR 1.6 billion for Slovakia.

The Slovak government had signed a contract December 2018 for the purchase of 14 units of F-16 Block 70, the most modern version of the aircraft for a total value, including personnel training costs, ammunition and logistical assistance for two years , amounting to 1.59 billion euros. The relevant documents were signed on December 12 by Secretary of Defense Peter Gajdo (SNS) and Lockheed Vice President Martin Ana Wugofski.

On 31 July 2019 Lockheed Martin Corp., doing business as Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $799,955,939 [ 723 million ] firm-fixed-price incentive contract for F-16 aircraft production. This contract provides for the production and support of 14 Slovak Republic F-16 block 70 aircraft. Work will be performed at Greenville, South Carolina, and is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2024. This contract award involves 100% foreign military sales to the Slovak Republic. This award is the result of a Slovak Republic conducted competition. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $799,955,939 are being obligated at time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8615-19-C-6053).

Four aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2022, the rest the following year. The purchase of F-16 aircraft to replace Russian fighter aircraft MiG-29 is considered the largest purchase in the history of Slovakia, a NATO member state. The purchase of the fighters is part of a program of modernization of the Slovak armed forces that has no equal. In recent years, multi-purpose military helicopters and airliners have been purchased for hundreds of millions of euros, and the ministry is preparing for the acquisition of hundreds of armored combat vehicles.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2021 18:20:01 ZULU