Slovak Air Force

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Slovak Air Force
Slovak Air Force logo.svg
Slovak Air Force emblem
Active 1993 − today
Country  Slovakia
Allegiance NATO
Branch Slovak Armed Forces
Type air force
Role aerial warfare
Size ~3.200 personnel
28 aircraft
10 helicopters
Garrison/HQ Zvolen
Commanders
Air Force Commander Brigade general Ľubomír Svoboda[1]
Insignia
Roundel Coat of arms of Slovakia.svg Roundel of Slovakia - Low Visibility.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack L-39ZAM Albatros
Fighter MiG-29AS
Helicopter Mil Mi-17, UH-60M
Reconnaissance L-410FG Turbolet
Trainer L-39CM Albatros
Transport C-27J Spartan, L-410UVP-E14/20 Turbolet

The Slovak Air Force, known since 2002 as the Air Force of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic (Slovak: Vzdušné sily Ozbrojených síl Slovenskej republiky), is the aviation and air defense branch of the Slovak Armed Forces. It operates 28 aircraft and 10 helicopters from 3 air bases: Malacky Air Base, Sliač Air Base, Prešov Air Base. Together with the Czech Air Force, it succeeded the Czechoslovak Air Force in 1993. The Slovak Air Force is part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missiles Defense System – NATINADS.[2][3][4][5][6]

The Slovak Air Force is tasked with the defense of the sovereign Slovak state and the support of the nation's ground troops.[7] Ten Russian upgraded fighter aircraft MiG-29[8][9][10][11][12] together with eight modernized basic and light advanced trainers (Aero L-39) dominate the inventory, followed by the six Let L-410s. The last Antonov An-26 transport aircraft were withdrawn from service on March 4, 2016.[13] The helicopter fleet consists of the six Mil Mi-17s and four UH-60M.[14] The Slovak Air Force has been under the command of Brigade General Ľubomír Svoboda since August 1, 2017.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

History

1939 – 1945

After the division of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in 1939, Slovakia was left with a small air force composed primarily of Czechoslovak combat aircraft. This force defended Slovakia against Hungary in 1939, and took part in the invasion of Poland in support of Germany. During the World War II, the Slovak Air force was charged with the defense of Slovak airspace, and, after the invasion of Russia, provided air cover for Slovak forces fighting against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. While engaged on the Eastern Front, Slovakia’s obsolete biplanes were replaced with German combat aircraft, including the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The air force was sent back to Slovakia after combat fatigue and desertion had reduced the pilots' effectiveness. Slovak air units took part in the Slovak National Uprising against Germany from late August 1944.[21][22][23]

1946 – 1992

During this time Czechoslovakia was a member of the Eastern Bloc, allied with the Soviet Union, and from 1955 a member of the Warsaw Pact. Because of this, the Czechoslovak Air Force used Soviet aircraft, doctrines, and tactics. The types of aircraft were mostly MiGs. MiG-15, MiG-19, and MiG-21F fighters was produced in license; in the 1970s, MiG-23MF were bought, accompanied by MiG-23ML and MiG-29s in the 1980s.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Czechoslovak Air Force consisted of the 7th Air Army, which had air defense duties, and the 10th Air Army, responsible for ground forces support.[24] The 7th Air Army had two air divisions and three fighter regiments, and the 10th Air Army had two air divisions and a total of six regiments of fighters and attack aircraft. There were also two reconnaissance regiments, two transport regiments, three training regiments, and two helicopter regiments.

In November 1989 Communism fell across Czechoslovakia. The two parliaments of the two new states from 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, decided how to split the assets of the former air force. The assets were divided 2:1 in the Czechs' favor, and thus the Slovak Air Force was (re)formed. However the 20 MiG 29s were shared equally between the two countries. [25]

1993 – present

Slovak Air Force L-39CM with special Otto Smik paint

After the formal dissolution of Czechoslovakia on January 1, 1993, Czech and Slovak aircraft were divided according to each nation's population, in a ratio of nearly 2:1 in the Czech Republic's favor.[26] The exceptions to this rule were the MiG-23s, which were given exclusively to the Czech Air force, and the MiG-29s, which were divided evenly between the two nations. Slovak bases were initially under-equipped to handle the aircraft transferred from the Czech bases, and required considerable improvements in infrastructure to facilitate the new air force. On March 1, 1995, the air force replaced the Soviet style aviation regiment organization with the western wing and squadron system.[27] Around 2000–2002, Slovakia gradually retired many of the older aircraft, including the entire fleet of Su-22, Su-25, and MiG-21.[28] In 2004, the flight training academy and national aerobatic demonstration team Biele Albatrosy, both based at Košice, were disbanded.[29][30]

On January 19, 2006, the Slovak Air Force lost an Antonov An-24 in a crash.

On September 20, 2011, all of the remaining Mil Mi-24 gunships were retired.[31][32][33][34]

In January 2014, Slovakia started discussions with the Swedish Government regarding leasing or purchasing JAS-39 Gripen aircraft to replace their MiG-29 fighters.[35][36] Lockeed Martin´s F-16 Fighting Falcon was also considered.

On April 21, 2014 Slovakia and RAC MiG extended contract for service support for the air force's MiG-29 fighters till 2017. In 2016 this has been extended to 2019.[37][38][39][40]

Slovakia to open talks with Sweden on Gripen jet fighters. In its effort to boost defence capabilities, Slovakia is set to begin official talks on the rental of Gripen jet fighters from Sweden, with the Slovak government assigning the task to Defence Minister Martin Glváč at its regular session on March 18, 2015. Glváč envisaged the beginning of the negotiations back in late January. The government maintains, as quoted by the TASR newswire, that Sweden is the only country to offer Slovakia an option whereby it could rent flying hours. Details of the costs and number of Gripens to be used in Slovakia are still to be elaborated during the talks.[41] In 2016, the offer to rent flying hours is no longer possible. Slovakia will have to either buy or lease new (or used) aircraft if it wants to keep supersonic jet capabilities.

In 2016 after 44 years of production, Lockheed Martin stopped assembling F-16 in Fort Worth, TX.[42] Procurement of new F-16V Block 70/72 is still an option for Slovak Air Force. Lockheed will begin moving the production line to its new facility in Greenville, S.C., at the end of the year after delivering the last of the iconic jets being built for Iraq in September 2017, said Ken Ross, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth.[43][44][45] But since the company hasn’t booked any orders for new F-16s beyond the planes for Iraq, it would take about two years to start it back up in South Carolina once a new order is received, Ross said.[46] Considering the condition of Slovak MIG-29 fighters and the need to replace them by 2019 (when the service contract for MIG-29s expires), this option remains unlikely. Slovakia would have to extend the service contract for MIG-29s with Russia which in current political environment would be controversial, if not impossible.[47] Although there´s still an option of purchasing used F-16s which could be delivered sooner.[48][49]

“The only partner who fulfils our current conditions is the Swedish government, and the producer of Gripens,” he said.[50][51]

After two years of talks with Sweden about acquiring Gripens, Slovakia is now pursuing other options regarding its fighter squadrons and is in talks with Russia to extend its use of MiG-29 fighters by 2019.[52][53]

The US State Department has approved the potential sale to Slovakia of Bell 429 light utility helicopters valued at USD 150 million. The approval, which was announced by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 28 April 2017, covers nine 'uniquely modified' helicopters equipped with Wescam MX-10 cameras. Included in the deal is training and support.[54][55][56]

Slovak Defense Minister Peter Gajdoš said that while the ministry has received offers from the U.S. to supply the F-16 and Sweden to deliver the JAS-39 Gripen for its planned purchase of 14 fighter jets, MiGs aren’t under consideration.[57]

The Lockheed Martin is potential for sales for over 400 new-build F-16s in the coming years given fighter competitions in India, Indonesia, Slovakia, and Colombia. Poland, which already operates F-16s, may also obtain additional aircraft.[58]

The US State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Slovakia of F-16 Block 70/72 V configuration aircraft for an estimated cost of $2.91 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying US Congress of this possible sale on April 3, 2018.[59][60]

The Slovak Republic has requested a possible sale of fourteen (14) F-16 Block 70/72 V configuration aircraft. This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO partner that is an important force for ensuring peace and stability in Europe. The proposed sale will support Slovakia’s needs for its own self-defense and support NATO defense goals. Slovakia intends to use these F-16s to modernize its Air Force and strengthen its homeland defense.[59][61]The F-16 Block 70/72 features advanced avionics, a proven APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, a modernized cockpit, advanced weapons, conformal fuel tanks, an automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System, Link 16 an advanced engine and an industry-leading extended structural service life of 12,000 hours.[62]

... and the winner is F-16 Block 70/72.[63][64][65]

Slovakia has decided to purchase 14 new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to replace its Russian made MiG-29 jets. The Slovakian Defence Ministry’s announcement Wednesday July 11, 2018 means the F-16 has beat out the Saab Gripen.[66][67][68]

“We are pleased Slovakia has selected the F-16 Block 70,” Lockheed Martin spokesman John Losinger said. “This partnership will deliver new capabilities to the Slovak Armed Forces and strengthen Slovakia’s strategic partnership with NATO and the United States.”[69][70][71]

Structure

Slovak Air Force locations 2018:
Red pog.svg Fighter jets Pink pog.svg Helicopters Blue pog.svg Transports planes
Purple pog.svg Air Defense Missile unit Lightgreen pog.svg Command & Control Centre

Aircraft

A Slovak Air Force MiG-29
A Mi-17 of the Slovak Air Force
A retired MiG-21

Current inventory

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat Aircraft
MiG-29 Russia multirole MiG-29AS/UBS 12[75] aircraft were upgraded in 2008.[76]
F-16 Fighting Falcon United States multirole F-16V 14 on order[70]
Reconnaissance
L-410 Turbolet Czech Republic surveillance L-410FG 1[77]
Transport
L-410 Turbolet Czech Republic transport L-410UVP-E 5[77]
Alenia C-27J Spartan Italy transport 2[78]
Helicopters
Mil Mi-17 Russia transport / utility M/LPZS 13[77]
Sikorsky UH-60 United States utility UH-60M 4 5 on order[79]
Bell 429 GlobalRanger United States utility Bell 429 0 9 on order[80][81]
Trainer Aircraft
Aero L-39 Czech Republic jet trainer L-39CM/ZAM 7[77] [82] assigned to the 2nd Squadron.
UAV
Elbit Skylark Israel UAV I-LEX 5[83] assigned to the Ministry of Interior and 5th Regiment.

Retired aircraft

Previous aircraft operated by the Air Force include MiG-21s, Sukhoi Su-22s, Sukhoi Su-25s, Yakovlev Yak-40s, Tupolev Tu-154s, Aero L-29s, Antonov 12, Antonov An-24/An-26s[84][85][86] Mil Mi-24 [87] and Mil Mi-2 helicopters. [88][89]

Air Defence

Slovak S-300
Name Origin Type In service Notes
SAM
S-300PMU Soviet Union SAM system 1 battery One battery with 45 missiles.[90][91][92]
2K12 Kub 2M Soviet Union SAM system 5 batteries Tracked medium-range surface-to-air missile system.[90]
9K38 Igla2 Soviet Union MANPADS Man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile system.[90]

See also

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External links

  • Official Homepage of the Slovak Air Force
  • Slovak Ministry of Defence page on the Slovak Air Force(en, sk)
  • Home page of Slovakia's 1 Fighter Squadron(en, sk)
  • Home page of 2nd Training Squadron, AFB Sliac(en, sk)
  • Website of the former Slovak Flight demonstration team (en, sk)
  • Website of the disbanded Slovak Military Flight Academy(sk)
  • Scramble on the Web page for the Slovak Air Force(en)
  • Aeroflight World Airforces on Slovakia(en)
  • Eagles of the Tatras: The Slovak Airforce 1939 – 1945(en)
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