Serbia Receives Four More MiG-29s from Belarus

 - March 6, 2019, 11:05 AM
Two of Serbia's four latest MiG-29s are seen during the handover ceremony in the 558 aircraft repair plant at Baranovici, where they are undergoing refurbishment and modernization. (Photo: Serbia ministry of defense)

Belarus has donated another four single-seat MiG-29s (of the 9.13 version, NATO reporting name “Fulcrum-C”) to Serbia, from the reserve of the Belarusian ministry of defense, according to a presidential order. The formal handover was the highlight of the working visit by a delegation from Serbia led by defense minister Aleksander Vulin.

The handover ceremony for the MiGs was held in Baranovici, Belarus at the end of February, in the presence of Aleksander Vulin and Roman Golovchenko, head of GKVP, the Belarusian state defense corporation GosKomVoenProm. The parties discussed bilateral military-technical cooperation.

The four MiG-29s will undergo an overhaul and upgrade process that will take 12 to 18 months at the OAO 558th aircraft repair plant in Baranovici. The general manager of the enterprise, Pavel Pinigin, told BT-1 television that, “As regards the upgrade, first of all the navigation system, radio-electronic [EW] protection, and armament of the aircraft will be partially modernized.” According to sources, Russia’s RSK MIG will take part in the overhaul and modernization. Serbia is paying for the overhaul, he added. Repair work on two of the single-seat aircraft presented at the ceremony commenced on February 22.

Commenting on the news, the Serbian defense ministry emphasized that, with the arrival of aircraft from Belarus, Belgrade will have a whole squadron of MiG-29 fighters (14 aircraft—eight from Belarus, six from Russia), which will make its air force the strongest in the region. In April 2018, Serbia received the first four MiG-29s from Belarus and before that, six similar aircraft came from Russia in 2017. Serbia’s newest MiGs were manufactured in 1987-1988.

Talking to Belarusian state television, Vulin highlighted the close cooperation between the two countries and announced that this year Russia, Belarus, and Serbia are scheduled to arrange a joint military exercise called Slavyanskoe Bratstvo (Slav Brotherhood). Currently, Serbia and Belarus collaborate in 34 defense-related projects.

Serbia is in the middle of an upturn of its defense industry, with efforts undertaken to gain a prominent position in the western Balkans. The country recently introduced a new air-launched guided gliding bomb (PGB-128) as well as an armed UAV. Goran Memon from EDePro said that the 128mm-caliber bomb is launched at an altitude of 5,000 to 7,000 meters (16,400 to 23,000 feet) with a range of approximately 20 km (12.5 miles). According to sources in Belgrade, the integration process of the new smart bomb with the MiG-29 has commenced.

At the IDEX show held in Abu Dhabi during February, Yugoimport SDPR—the country’s defense industry coordinator—presented the Aleks family, a UCAV developed and produced by Belgrade-based EDePro. The demonstrator shown flying in a video weighs 35 kg (77 pounds), with a 6-kg payload (dual, military and civil use). It is a hybrid quadcopter-fixed-wing configuration, taking off and landing vertically. A larger fixed-winged UCAV model of the Aleks family (shown in mock-up form at IDEX with two rocket launch pods, each with four rockets) weighing up to 250 kg with a payload of 60-70 kg is under development, said an EDePro representative.