The Letecké US opravovne Trencin (LOT) aircraft maintenance facility at Trencin, Slovakia, has upgraded two of the air force's Mil Mi-17 Hips for operation with NATO's SFOR force in Bosnia.

The helicopters have been equipped with upgraded navigation systems to enable them to operate in international civil airspace and be interoperable with other NATO assets. Lightweight armour protection for the pilots has also been installed.

The machines have been used to form the first independent helicopter unit which, unlike typical Slovakian air force squadrons, incorporates maintenance and support personnel as well as aircrew and first-line ground crew.

The Mi-17s were deployed to Bosnia last week where they are operating as part of the Netherlands SFOR contingent and will support Slovakian and Dutch troops. Some reports say the Netherlands helped fund the 8 million koruna ($180,750) upgrade.

LOT is responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of all Slovakian air force aircraft and will be the Slovakian participant in the Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter upgrade planned by the four Visegrad nations, which include the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland.

Source: Flight International