Polish F-16s to Protect the Slovak Skies
Head of the Polish MoD, Mariusz Błaszczak declared that Polish combat aircraft would patrol the Slovak airspace. This is a part of a broader NATO support scheme, in the domain of Slovak security.
The Polish detachment is to involve two F-16C/D Jastrząb jets.
We are engaged in a joint effort with Slovakia, to establish and reinforce our cooperation in the security domain. I can confirm that a Polish QRA F-16s would remain on duty, also over Slovakia, Błaszczak said. These words have been expressed during a meeting with Jaroslav Nad, head of the Slovak MoD. Details of that support scheme are to be specified soon.
Poland has gathered experience during the Air Policing operation that would serve as a foundation for further cooperation with Slovakia. It is important for us now to arrange details, within the framework of a technical agreement, Błaszczak stated.
Slovakia has had, up until recently, a decent air defence component at its disposal, given the size of its territory, including several Kub SHORAD batteries, and one S-300PMU MRAD battery (4 launchers), and a single MiG-29 squadron (11 aircraft). All of the aforesaid inventory was inherited from Czechoslovakia, and dated back to the Warsaw Pact era. Recently Bratislava has invested in a new F-16C/D Block 70 (F-16V) MRCA squadron - these are expected to be delivered between 2022 and 2024.
Slovakia gave away a valuable S-300PMU SAM system to Ukraine. The status of the MiG-29 fleet remains unclear. First, the technical condition of those aircraft remains unclear. Secondly, it cannot be ruled out that they have been or will be transferred.
Other NATO member states appreciated Slovakia's decision to transfer its S-300 systems. In return, protection assets have been offered, until new armament is procured. German-Dutch Patriot units have been deployed to Slovakia. The Polish F-16s would probably follow.
The Polish gesture has both practical, as well as a political dimensions. The Slovak airspace could have been protected by the US fighters deployed to Poland. The decision, however, emphasizes regional solidarity, and cooperation. Apart from Poland, no state among the regional players could have detached two MRCA solely for the protection of Slovakia - the Czech Republic and Hungary only operate a single squadron of supersonic jets each. Romania owns less than 20 F-16AM/BMs, while operational use of the MiG-21s has been suspended. The aircraft are probably engaged in CAP activities in eastern Romania, due to the war in Ukraine. Poland, meanwhile, operates 3 F-16C/D squadrons (48 jets) - here more freedom is available when arranging extra deployments.