On 9th June 2021, during a ceremony being organized at Batajnica air base, four MiG-29 fighters were officially taken over by the Serbian Air Force and Air Defence (Ратно ваздухопловство и противваздухопловна одбрана Војске Србије). Those aircraft arrived to Serbia after an overhaul and upgrade works done at the 558th Aviation Plant in Baranovichi.
Donation of four fighter aircraft, being a result of bilateral agreement between the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, was for the first time officially confirmed in April of 2018. That acquisition formed part of ambitious plan to modernize and increase capabilities of the armed forces, as earlier announced by the Serbian MoD.
In keeping with the modernization plan, the Serbian aviation and air defence component was to be reinforced by at least four Mi-35 attack helicopters, six Mi-17 multipurpose rotorcraft, missile defence systems and – above all – by another six MiG-29 aircraft from Russia. Donation of the latter was already confirmed in October 2017, together with additional budget allowance for pilots´ training.
Following provisions of the abovementioned bilateral agreement, the four fighter aircraft were officially donated to Serbia in February of 2019. A solemn ceremony was held at the 558th Aviation Plant in Baranovichi, being attended by Serbian MoD Aleksandar Vulin, Serbian Air Force and Air Defence commander, Major General Duško Žarković and Chief of Armament Staff of the Belarussian MoD, Major General Andrei Fedin.
On 22nd February 2019, overhaul and upgrade works on the donated aircraft were launched. According to the agreement, all costs related to that maintenance were borne by the Serbian MoD. The exact scope of work was not disclosed, however it included replacement of avionics systems and installation of new navigation and communication equipment – in order to achieve a 4+ generation standard. In addition, the Serbian military authorities announced that the donated MiG-29s were ´in their first third of serviceability´. When speaking of deadlines, it was then estimated that overhaul and the first part of upgrade should last at least eighteen months.
It must be pointed that latest Serbian acquisitions – six MiG-29 fighters, four attack helicopters, and Mi-17 and H 145 multipurpose rotorcraft – that were in their majority successfully completed until the end of 2019, were also the first purchase of new aircraft for the Serbian Air Force in more than twenty years. And, without any doubts, those acquisitions meant a significant enhance of its capabilities, especially regarding the fighter aeroplanes.
As reported by the Serbian MoD, in 2012 the air force inventory included only four MiG-29s. In order to secure Serbian airspace, the QRA duties had to be performed by a mixed pair of MiG-29 and MiG-21 aircraft. This situation changed only with arrival of the Russian-donated fighters.
Now, after receiving the overhauled and upgraded aircraft from Belarus, the Serbian Air Force has a total of fourteen active MiG-29s in its inventory. And a few weeks ago was able to make an early withdrawal of their MiG-21 fighters.
All quotations and photos © Министарство одбране Републике Србије / MoD Republic of Serbia. MoD press releases were used