Slovakia hunting for new weaponry: to buy either American F-16s or Swedish Gripen fighter jets

Slovakia's defense ministry are in talks to purchase either American F-16s or Swedish Gripen fighter jets to replace its ageing Russian-made MiG-29s, it disclosed on Friday. Slovakia has a maintenance contract for its 12 MiG-29s until autumn 2019 with Russia which may need to be extended even if the government agrees to acquire new jets by the end of this
year, as the delivery time period typically is 18 to 24 months.

The defense ministry plans to submit an analysis for government approval on both options by June 29. Jaroslav Nad from the Slovak Security Police Institute said "Both options are good. F-16s are more expensive and they may take until around 2023 to be delivered".

Poland already has F-16s that were built by Lockheed Martin Corp while neighbours, Czech Republic and Hungary already acquired Gripens, built by Saab. A joint sky agreement which leases 14 Gripens, exist between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The agreement requires both countries to help protect each other's air space beyond the standard air defense cooperation within NATO. They could also share maintenance and pilot training if Slovakia acquires Gripens.

Slovakia is expected to spend an approximate 6.5 billion euros ($8.11 billion) by 2030 towards efforts aim at modernizing its military. Defense spending is also expected to rise to 1.6 percent in 2020 and 2.0 percent by 2024 from its 1.1 percent of gross domestic product last year.

The government had approved plans in November, 2017 to construct 81 eight-wheeled armoured personal carriers with the Finnish defense company Patria, to replace outdated personnel carriers. The ministry is also looking to secure a partner to construct 404 four-wheeled armoured vehicles this year.

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