Not only is Serbia going to receive 6 MiG-29 aircraft from Russia, as the gift would be complemented with 30 T-72 main battle tanks and a similar number of BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles. The aforesaid delivery is an element of a long term technological and military cooperation between the two states – as it was announced by the Serbian PM, Alexander Vucic, during his recent visit to Moscow.
Vucic stated that Russia has given Serbia six MiG-29 fighters, in case of which the first phase of modernization would cost from 180 to 230 million euros. The Serbian official stated that the gift cannot be compared to any offer placed before, since procurement alone would cost at least EUR 600 million. Moreover, Vucic added that Serbia also is to receive 30 T-72 main battle tanks and 30 BRDM-2 vehicles, as a gift.
The statement was made by Vucic during a conference organized on Thursday, 22nd December, which was a part of the Serbian official’s visit to Moscow. On the same day, the Serbian PM also met the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergey Shoygu. On that occasion, assumptions of the three- and five-years long plans of military and technological collaboration between the two nations were discussed. In fact, the above is contained in Russian support for Serbia, within the scope of operating the equipment which is received by the Serbians as a gift. Secondly, the process of gaining compliance with the NATO standards, in case of Serbia, is going to be reversed.
The relevant agreements were signed yesterday (23rd December). Six MiG-29 jets are to be delivered in October 2017, after they undergo the modernization works. Another procurement option considered assumes that the jets would be received between March and April, and then they would be subsequently sent back to Russia, in order to undergo the upgrades. The latter scenario seems to be more probable, as PM Vucic admitted that Belgrade has no sufficient assets available, thus it may be required to postpone the modernization until 2018.
As a result of the contractual agreement above, Serbia is gradually becoming a military and political subsidiary of Russia, paying a high price for the Moscow’s friendship. It is worth to mention the cost of modernization of the 6 aforesaid fighters. Vucic, so far, referred to the costs of overhauls related to recovery of operational capability shaped at the level of around USD 50 million. Today, we know that the modernization programme will be covered with an amount of EUR 180 – 230 million, which may be a suggestion that the Russian “gift” is quite obsolete.
When it comes to the main battle tanks, Serbians will probably receive the T-72S, a simplified export variant of the T-72B tank, with Kontakt-1 ERA. BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicles are also quite controversial, due to their age, as they may be not appropriate and usable for the Serbs. Jugoimport-SDPR, a local state-governed company, has been manufacturing, since 2009, the “Kurjak” (Black Wolf) vehicle, a deep modification of the BRDM-2 APC, fitted with a remote-control turret module and side doors, missing from the prerequisite platforms that have been designed 50 years ago. It cannot be ruled out that Serbs receive the BRDM-2 vehicles after upgrades, or that the acquired vehicles would form a base platform for modernization, with the relevant work being carried out by the domestic industry.