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Slovakia delays decision to replace Russian fighter jets

Staff Writer |
Slovakia will postpone a planned fighter jet purchase pending a broader upgrade of its armed forces, the defense minister said on Wednesday, following warnings that such a move could prolong its dependence on Russia.

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The central European NATO member state has been in talks with several firms about replacing its aging Russian-made MiG-29s.

Peter Gajdos mentioned U.S. F-16 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin and Gripen jets made by Sweden’s Saab as options. Neighboring Hungary and the Czech Republic already operate the latter.

Slovakia was expected to make decision by the end of this month, but Gajdos said this would be delayed.

“We need to modernize the ground forces which are the backbone of our military. While we have been replacing some parts of the air force, the ground forces have not been renewed for decades,” he said.

Slovakia is due to spend about 6.5 billion euros ($7.80 billion) by 2030 to modernize its army, the defense ministry said in a strategy document, released last week and to be debated in the first half of 2018.

Its spending on defense is due to rise from 1.1 percent of GDP to 1.6 percent in 2020 and 2.0 percent by 2024.

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