11. 07. 2018 13:19
The Slovak Defence Ministry submitted a proposal concerning the future of the country's supersonic air force, worth more than €1 billion, to Cabinet. On Tuesday evening, a document in which Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš recommended the purchase of US F-16s rather than Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jets, which were also on offer, was added to the agenda of the Slovak Security Council session. The Council was due to meet ahead of the Cabinet session in order to discuss the Defence Ministry-sponsored proposal.
The acquisition of 14 new supersonic fighter jets has been questioned by the political opposition as well as security experts, who criticise the Defence Ministry for a lack of published information. Slovak dailies also complained about a lack of information on the exact sum to be paid.
In the material submitted to the members of the Slovak Security Council on Tuesday, the Defence Ministry for the first time admitted that the Russian MIG aircrafts, currently used by the Slovak Armed Forces, are being phased out. Up until now, a coalition member the Slovak National Party preferred investing into Russian aircraft. Commentators in Slovak dailies agree that new contract with the Russians and investing in the MIGs is, however, politically impassable as the largest coalition member SMER-SD prefers Swedish Gripens.
On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry for the first time confirmed they recommend to purchase the upgraded version of US F-16 jets.
As Dag Daniš from the portal aktuality.sk noted, by purchasing the American F-16 jets, Slovakia would obtain very expensive aircraft that would be used only occasionally for high operational expenses. Moreover, Parliamentary Chairman Andrej Danko stated that the new aircraft will arrive gradually, and therefore, the old ones should be removed gradually, too. "The Russian MIGs should this way serve for another 12 years; until 2030," concludes the actuality.sk commentator Dag Daniš.
According to the Defence Ministry, the key advantage of the American F-16 jets is increased efficiency, longer range, a more powerful engine and larger gun capacity than the Swedish Gripen. The Ministry finds these parameters important as the Slovak Army would have increased defence capabilities with fewer aircraft.