Serbian aviation seeking Russian wings
BELGRADE – Serbian army, after more than two decades, will receive new fighter aircraft. Although the type of the aircraft that will strengthen the Serbian air force has not yet been officially announced, it has been speculated for some time about Russian aircraft “Mig 292M”.
Specific announcement that Serbia is buying new planes was made on Sunday by The First Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who visited the 250th air defence missile brigade.
“I have good news for Army of Serbia”, said Minister Vucic in the “Major Dragutin Gavrilovic” base in the village Zuce near Belgrade. “After 20 years, the army will receive new modern type aircraft. We also plan to purchase other modern systems.”
However, even though on it was officially announced on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence has not yet come out with more precise on the type of aircraft which will be purchased, deadlines, price or payment. Final agreement on the new wings could be made as early as at the end of this month, when the state leadership is scheduled to visit Moscow.
Officials from the Serbian Army also unofficially confirmed that the negotiations with the company MIG about the purchase of military planes could soon enter the final phase. In the Serbian Army officials did not reject news that appeared in public that the wish of Serbia is purchase of at least six aircrafts type “Mig 29M”.
“Military leadership few years ago made a study in which was exactly defined the profile of the aircraft that Serbia needs,” explain officials from Army of Serbia. “In the last year there were several contacts with aircraft factories, and the arrival of Russian squadron of “Mig”s at the air show in Batajnica was a good sign that the deal could be made.
Retired air force colonel and longtime lecturer at the Air Force Academy Zlatomir Grujic believes that buying Russian “Mig”s is the beginning of the long time expected process of modernization of the Serbian Air Force.
“Purchase of aircrafts means a possibility of defending our airspace,” says Grujic. “In the moral sense, this is impetus and impulse for Serbian air force to further modernize. The next steps in development would have to go in terms of development of aviation centers and pilots training.
For a modern variant of the airplane “Mig 29″, with mark “M2″, which could soon carry Serbian markings, military analyst Aleksandar Radic does not look as favorable. He believes that for the state and the army would be smarter to modernize existing planes “Mig 21″ and with that buy time needed for quality selection and providing the funds.
“Serbian budget is poor for maintenance and use of modern military aircrafts,” explains Radic. “The exploitation of a squadron would annually swallow at least third of the whole budget of the Serbian Army, which is about $250 million. Company MIG is not able to guarantee supply of parts and maintenance, which would put Serbia at risk and cost of testing the aircrafts and the problems of integration of modern systems.”
The biggest enigma of purchasing new aircrafts will be the payment method, which nobody has officially mentioned. Besides the acquisition of aircrafts is political decision, they also cost. Purchasing new wings with additional content (training, spare parts and equimpment), accoring to experts, could cost up to – EUR 1 billion.