Czech and Polish fighter jets to guard Slovak airspace

Slovakia might supply Ukraine with old jets.

A MiG-29 fighter jet during the SIAF International Aviation Days.A MiG-29 fighter jet during the SIAF International Aviation Days. (Source: TASR)

From September 1, Slovak airspace will be guarded by Czech and Polish air forces. On Saturday August 27, the Defence Ministers of Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland signed a declaration regarding the defence during the SIAF International Aviation Days event.

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Slovak airspace will be protected by the two countries until December 31, 2023. However, the timespan is subject to prolongation.

Related article Slovakia's air defence relies on Russian technicians Read more 

Waiting for F-16s

According to Slovak minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO), the two neighbouring countries will provide their fighter jets and crews to readily react to a possible violation of Slovak airspace. On the other hand, as the host country Slovakia will provide the necessary support, including refuelling services, air navigation, and their protection.

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"History has always connected us, as well as our common value to fight for freedom and democracy. For Slovakia, this gesture of our Czech and Polish allies and friends is clear proof of our very close alliance and the determination to help each other protect the Central European region, whose citizens have reasonable concerns for their safety in light of the Russian aggression in Ukraine," said Naď.

Ever since becoming an independent state, the Slovak airspace has been guarded by MiG-29 fighter jets. However, their operation relied on Russian technicians, putting Slovakia in a precarious position since the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of war in Ukraine.

Currently, there are 11 MiG-29 fighter jets, of which no more than four or five are operational, according to various sources. Slovakia plans to replace the jets with American F-16s. According to Jaroslav Naď, the changeover should take place no later than in January 2024.

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Related article Government has approved the purchase of F-16 jets Read more 

MiGs off to Ukraine?

Before the signing of the declaration, the aircraft were symbolically grounded.

Although partially modernized between 2004 and 2006, during which they were outfitted with communication, navigation and other systems compatible with NATO technology, the jets are considered obsolete.

"For Slovakia, there is no prospect of using Soviet-type technology in the future. It is not compatible with our NATO allies and cannot be modernized further, while its operation and combat capability is affected by low reliability," said the Defence Minister. According to him, it would be extremely difficult to do so in terms of personnel and money.

With the grounding of the MiGs, rumours that the jets could be supplied to the Ukrainian air force resurfaced. Speaking to the Czech daily Hospodářské noviny, Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok said that the MiGs still have their value, even though they no longer posses operational significance to Slovakia.

"Their passing on to Ukraine is not a political problem. We just have to find a way to do so," Korčok said in the interview. Ukrainian pilots fly the MiG and Sukhoi Soviet- and Russian-made fighter jets. Previously, the idea of sending them on was rejected.

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