Russian Helicopters delivered two Mil Mi-17V5 rotorcraft to Serbia on 28 June, marking the first delivery of a new rotary type to the country’s air force in 25 years.

The deal, worth €25 million ($28 million), will see the two aircraft bolster the Serbian rotorcraft fleet, which consists of one Mi-17 and six Mi-8T transports. The service life of the older fleet is expected to end between 2017 and 2019.

The last new indigenous acquisition was a fleet of Gazelles built under licence by Soko, and the last helicopters from a foreign manufacturer were acquired in the late 1980s, when two anti-submarine Kamov Ka-28s were delivered, which have since been retired. The current Mi-17 was inherited from the ministry of interiors special operations unit.

Due to operational requirements, the priorities for the helicopter were transport, search and rescue and civil support. The aircraft were acquired with no armament hardpoints, protective armour for the crew, flare dispensers or other counter-measures, although the wiring for unguided rocket pods seems to have been provided.

Equipment provided includes a hoist, searchlight, hook system capable of carrying a 4.5t external load, medical evacuation kits with 12 stretchers, a Kontur 10C radar in the nose, and a loading ramp.

Serbian Mil Mi-17V5 - Igor Salinger/

Igor Salinger/

Speaking at the delivery ceremony, Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic described the current fighter status in the country as “alarming”.

He added that he expects there to be “significant financial assets” for a fighter acquisition in the 2017 budget, and that this will most likely be the Mikoyan MiG-29M2.

Although no dates or numbers were promised, Vucic did note that the market value of four MiG-29M2 and associated R77 missiles is expected to be €250-260 million.

Serbia currently has four older MiG-29s – three single-seaters and one UB two-seater – in its inventory, three of which are operational at any given time. Funds of €5 million were secured last year for urgent spares and equipment to support the fleet.