The Serbian Defence Ministry said on Monday that four MiG-29 aircraft had been handed to Serbia by Belarus but Belgrade daily Blic reported that the fighters would get to Serbia later than planned because of the transfer of ownership procedures.
An unnamed senior Serbian official told the newspaper that the overhaul and ugrades of the aircraft can’t be contracted until that procedure is completed, adding that the work would take about 12 months to complete.
The Defence Ministry statement said that the aircraft had become Serbia’s property on Monday and would be delivered once the upgrades are complete. It said the work on the fighters had started on February 22.
A handover ceremony in Belorus was attended by a ministry and Air Force delegation headed by Minister Aleksandar Vulin, the statement said.
Vulin is quoted as saying that Serbia will now have 14 of the 4+ generation MiG aircraft which he said are among the best in the world. “Our air force has not been stronger in decades, our pilots can count of flight time like in the Yugoslav National Army (JNA), they can count on the latest equipment and our skies and our Serbia will be safe, free and independent,” Vulin said.
The ceremony was also attended by Air Force and Air Defence commander Major General Dusko Zarkovic who is quoted as saying that the Serbian military has enough pilots for the new aircraft. “We have planes to train on and have re-trained five pilots abroad along with two more who were re-trained in the 204th Air Brigade,” the general said.
Belarus Defence Ministry official Major General Andrey Fedin was also present at the ceremony.