Low hours for Slovakia's fleet delays arrival of Western fighters at new NATO member

Slovakia will not replace its RSK MiG-29s with Western fighters until after 2020, says defence minister Juraj Liska. "The majority of our fighters do not have that many flight hours. I expect that we will not need new fighter jets in the supersonic category for at least another 15 years," Liska told the Reuters news agency last month.

The new NATO member decided last year to delay the acquisition of a Western-built fighter on cost grounds, opting instead to retain and upgrade 12 of its 21 MiG-29s acquired from former Czechoslovakian stocks in 1993. With many of these having been kept grounded due to a lack of funds, the upgraded aircraft are expected to last longer than the originally forecast maximum of 10 years.

To be completed by late 2006, the $48-64 million modernisation effort will allow Slovakia's MiG-29s to participate in allied missions through the integration of NATO-compatible avionics. The replacement of the type's original engines is also expected to reduce operating costs from over $19,000 per flight hour to around $12,000. The work is being partly funded by debt repayments from Moscow.

"The modernisation gives us time to think in which direction to go," Liska says.


Source: Flight International