Prime Minister Robert Fico’s cabinet approved this deal on October 22 without disclosing the details. The procurement started already in 2008, under the first government of Fico while Glváč now claims that Slovakia managed to negotiate a better deal than the originally assumed prices at around €37-€42 million, according to the TASR newswire. The original plan to buy the planes came in the wake of the crash of a military aircraft An-24 close to the Hungarian village Hejce.
“I am convinced that this contract is within our independent armed forces the largest modernisation project in the history of the Ministry of Defence, if I do not count the controversial MOKYS,” said Glváč, as quoted by TASR.
MOKYS, a mobile communication system, is one of the most expensive and controversial public procurements ever undertaken by the Ministry of Defence with an estimated final price of some €200 million. Police investigators looked into the procurement which started in 2005, after former prime minister Iveta Radičová filed a criminal motion in January 2012.
While Glváč claims that Slovakia managed to negotiate an advantageous price, his predecessor Ľubomír Galko claims that the bill could have been even lower as the ministry under his management got an offer from Alenia, with prices even lower, Sme quoted the former minister on October 30. Galko added that at that time the ministry did not have the budget to accept the deal.
A former state secretary of the ministry, Robert Ondrejcsák, claims that multi-purpose helicopters would be of better use for the army than airlifters carrying cargo longer distances.
The first Spartan C-27J is set for delivery in 2016 and the other a year later. The ministry currently has only one plane in the middle-sized category at its disposal. It is An-26 whose lifespan expires in 2016, Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces Milan Maxim told the press. Purchasing the Spartans means that the country will have modern middle-sized cargo planes that will surpass the possibilities of AN-26, he added, as reported by the SITA newswire.
The Spartans will have a 5,000-kilometre flying range with the capability to carry 11,500 kilogrammes of cargo and 68 passengers, according to Maxim, as quoted by TASR. According to the chief of staff, the planes will include several modules, for example for the transport of injured, extermination of fires, passenger module or a computer with software to balance cargo, TASR reported.
“The planes will first of all serve the Ministry of Defence, mainly for the transport of materials, people and light technology not only on our own territory but also areas stricken by crisis,” Maxim added.
The army plans to use Spartans also within the Visegrad region.
The subcontractor of Spartans is the Czech company Aero Vodochody, which is owned by Penta investment group. Aero Vodochody supplies Alenia Aermacchi with complete centre wing boxes since 2006. Alenia Aermacchi was in the past represented in Slovakia by the Willing company for several years. Willing’s representatives accompanied Fico during his official visits to Russia, Libya and Israel. Miroslav Výboh, the influential businessman trading weapons and Fico’s friend, was also representative of Willing for years, Sme wrote in mid-October.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence reported that it managed to sell old helicopters: three Mi-24s produced in the years of 1985, 1987 and 1988. According to the contract published in the central register of contracts, they went to the company Kolombus Trade for €756,690, as the only firm indicating interest in the purchase of helicopters, SITA reported.