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Holes in the skies over NATO's Central European member states. OSW Commentary No. 119, 22.10.2013

Wilk, Andrzej and Daborowski, Tomasz and Groszkowski, Jakub (2013) Holes in the skies over NATO's Central European member states. OSW Commentary No. 119, 22.10.2013. [Policy Paper]

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    Over the past few months, four Central European states have made decisions which will determine the shape of their air forces over the next decade. On 11 October, Romania signed a contract under which it will buy twelve used US F-16A/B multi-role fighter aircraft from Portugal. In August, Slovakia signed contracts with Russia’s MiG for repairs and the limited modernisation of its twelve MiG-29 fighter aircraft currently in service. The Czech Republic entered into a preliminary agreement in July with Sweden on extending the lease of fourteen JAS-39 Gripen multi-role fighter aircraft (the new Czech government will hammer out the details following the parliamentary election). Bulgaria, which has been facing financial problems and political instability, in June postponed the purchase of new (non-Soviet) combat aircraft at least until the end of this year. If Sofia decides to buy any within the next few years, these will be not more than twelve relatively old and worn-out machines (most likely F-16A/B from Portuguese or Dutch army surplus). Given the fact that Hungary in 2012 made the same decision regarding its fourteen Gripen aircraft as the Czech Republic, there are good grounds to claim that the capabilities Central European NATO member states have to take action in airspace are durably limited. The region’s saturation with combat aircraft is the lowest when compared to the entire continent (with the exception of the Baltic states). Furthermore, the machines to be used in the coming decade will be the oldest and the least advanced technologically (all of them belong to the so-called “fourth generation”, the roots of which date back to the 1970s). The problem with gaining full interoperability within NATO has not been resolved in its Central European member states. By modernising its MiG-29 aircraft, Slovakia is to say the least postponing the achievement of interoperability once again. Bulgaria will gain interoperability by buying any Western combat aircraft. However, it is very unlikely to introduce new machines into service earlier than at the end of the present decade. Since the introduction of new fifth generation multi-role combat aircraft or transitional 4+ generation machines in the region’s air forces is unrealistic, the defence of the airspace of NATO member states in Central Europe can be termed an ever more porous sky.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > External relations > EU-Central and Eastern Europe
    Other international institutions > NATO
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) > OSW Commentary
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2014 16:48
    Number of Pages: 7
    Last Modified: 06 Dec 2014 16:48

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