This coming weekend, during the Slovak International Air Fest air show held at Malacky – Kuchyňa air base, Slovakia will officially say farewell to its MiG-29 fighter aircraft (NATO reporting name ´Fulcrum´). At the end of this month, all the Slovak MiG-29s will be retired from active service and then offered for sale.
Discussion related to retirement of the Slovak Fulcrums have been a headline news for quite some time, gaining in strength with the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Nevertheless, all those speculations were regularly denied by the Slovak Ministry of Defence.
After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the newly established country of Slovakia received its share from the former Czechoslovak Air Force, including nine single-seat MiG-29 fighters and one MiG-29UB two-seat trainer. Between 1993 and 1996, the Slovak Air Force acquired another fourteen Fulcrums from Russia, as a part of settlement of the Soviet debt.
The story of Slovak MiG-29s was already described in more detail within one of our featured stories, issued in April this year. Initially, the Slovak MoD was expecting the Flucrums to stay in active service until 2040, nevertheless, general condition of those aircraft and issues with their maintenance forced this term to be shortened to 2029. Regrettably, shortly after it turned out that even that short term was not realistic.
In 2018, Slovakia decided to purchase fourteen Lockheed Martin F-16V Block 70/72 fighter aircraft to replace its MiG-29 fleet. It was expected that the first Vipers would arrive to Slovakia in 2022, therefore Fulcrums could be retired next year. However, at the beginning of 2022, the Lockheed Martin company officially informed about issues with the F-16 production that forced the delivery to be postponed to 2024.
Faced with the postponed delivery of the new fighters and rapidly ageing fleet of MiG-29s, the Slovak MoD decided to conclude agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic, covering the QRA duties and protection of the Slovak airspace. It allowed the Slovak Air Force to retire its Fulcrums yet this year and such information was officially released by the Slovak MoD at the beginning of this month.
That announcement immediately started another wave of speculations focused on future fate of the Slovak MiG-29 fighters. Obviously, most of them were mentioning that Ukraine would be the destination and some influential Ukrainian journalists were already posting in their social media accounts that Fulcrums already were delivered there.
And one more time, all those rumours were officially denied by Jaroslav Naď, the Slovak Minister of Defence. According to his official interviews to local press, all Slovak MiG-29s are still based in Slovakia and can be seen during static and flying displays of the SIAF air show. This will be also the final public display of the Slovak Fulcrums, as shortly after the show the aircraft will be grounded and then offered for sale.
Jaroslav Naď also emphasized that there is no speculation about any donation of the MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine. According to Slovak MoD, the fleet of twelve aircraft is still worth approximately 300 million EUR and no donation of such value could be made. Obviously, Ukraine seems to be the most probable destination for those fighters, nevertheless they could be either bought by Ukraine (or any other state on its behalf) or compensated with delivery of other military equipment for the Slovak armed forces.
Nevertheless, airworthiness of the Slovak MiG-29 fleet was for many years discussed by local press. Obviously, the exact number of active aircraft was never disclosed officially by the MoD but it was sure that not all twelve fighters were able to perform their duties. Numbers mentioned by the press usually varied between two and six airworthy Fulcrums, the latter being rather an optimistic estimation.
In conclusion, it seems that combat value of the Slovak MiG-29s is very limited. Although – in case they actually are delivered to Ukraine – those Fulcrums are still a valuable source of spare parts and airframes for further modifications.