Russia has donated six MiG-29 fighters to Serbia, a pair of two-seaters and four single-seaters. The Balkan country received MiG-29s in the late 1980s, but as of recently had only one two-seater and two single-seaters in airworthy condition.
The six aircraft were handed over on October 20 at the Batajnica air force base north of Belgrade. Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu and Serbian president Alexander Vuchich attended the ceremony. Shoigu said the two countries have “a long-term program for military and military-technical cooperation." The hand-over ceremony was followed by an aerial performance by the Russian Air & Space Force (VKS) Strizhy (Swifts) MiG-29 aerobatic display team.
The donated MiGs were taken from stocks of VKS Fighter Regiment No. 31 at the Millerovo air force base near Rostov-upon-Don. The supply package also includes parts and spares for three to five years of normal flight operations. The fighters were delivered disassembled aboard An-124-100 Ruslan heavy lifters, but were handed over in airworthy condition, according to Vuchich. They had undergone only vital repairs necessary in Russia. Within the next few months, these aircraft will be modernized at the Aeronautical Plant "Moma Stanojlovic" in Batajnica. Various sources give different estimates for the cost of this work, from $50 million to $270 million.
Apparently, the Serbian side is yet to decide which upgrade package to choose. According to Vuchich, the MiGs will get their onboard systems renewed under what is called “a complete modernization program.” Upon its completion, they will be inducted into the Serbian air force, which is expected sometime next year. The Serbian military has yet to pick which radar sets and other equipment to be installed on their aircraft, Vuchich added.
In addition to the jet fighters, Moscow has donated T-72S main battle tanks, BRDM-2 recce vehicles and 14.5-mm machine guns to Serbia. The final decision to supply the MiG-29s was made by President Putin last spring. The donation will boost the Serbian air force inventory to seven single- and three two-seaters of the type.
The Serbian air force used to operate a large combat jet inventory, but at the time of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War in 1999, it had only 13 MiG-29B fighters and two MiG-29UB operational trainers acquired in the late 1980s. All were in service with Squadron127 of Fighter Regiment 204 at Batajnica. Six of these aircraft were shot down and five more were withdrawn due to various causes. Two pilots were killed in action and several more wounded.