Howard Gethin/London


MAPO and Danubian could upgrade Hungary's MiG-29 fleet

Hungary is considering options for upgrade programmes for its MAPO MiG-29A fighter aircraft, as its plans to buy or lease more modern Western fighters are delayed by continuing funding problems. Poland has already opted to go down the same route, having agreed an update deal with DaimlerChrysler Aerospace (Dasa).

MAPO and Russian arms corporation Rosvoorouzhenie are competing for the possible upgrade of Hungary's 27 MiG-29s. Fewer than half of the fighters are airworthy, but no tender has yet been issued by the Hungarian defence ministry for overhaul or upgrade of the aircraft.

The MiG deal may go ahead in 2000 as part of the next five-year defence plan, if it is approved by the Hungarian Government and parliament, according to defence ministry deputy state secretary Janos Karasz, following talks with MAPO and Rosvoorouzhenie are

The favourite for completion of any MiG-29 work is a partnership of MAPO and the Danubian Aircraft Factory, under Russian supervision. It is likely to consist of a limited refit of communications and interrogation friend or foe (IFF) equipment to comply with NATO interoperability. The Hungarian Government requires offset work in excess of 50%,which is likely to favour the MAPO/Danubian bid over that of Dasa, according to Hungarian Government sources.

Hungary had been considered a front runner for purchasing the Saab/British Aerospace Gripen, which has been demonstrated in the country. Like Poland and the Czech Republic - its partners in the next wave of NATO enlargement - it cannot afford new aircraft and is considering maintaining existing equipment in the short term.

Dasais to upgrade the Polish air force's 22 MiG-29s with new avionics and IFF systems, following a contract award on 8 February. Details are still being negotiated, says Dasa, but the upgrade is believed to be similar to that on offer to Hungary. The work will be carried out by the air force at the WZL2 plant in Bydgoszcz under Dasa management.

Poland is to delay its choice of a new fighter until the second quarter of this year, says defence minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz. The Polish cabinet is to set up a committee to assess the purchase of combat helicopters as well as fighters, delaying the process.

Onyszkiewicz visited Washington recently to discuss Poland's impending NATO membership, as well as to meet executives from Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which are offering F/A-18 andF-16 fighters, respectively.

Source: Flight International