Serbia’s defense minister said the government was in talks with the UK to acquire both new and surplus Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets as part of a wider army modernization effort. country air.
On April 16, Serbian Defense Minister Nebojša Stefanović told Serbian national TV channel RTS1 that the Serbian Air Force and Air Defense were seeking to acquire the Typhoons as they continued discussions with France for the Dassault Rafale.
Stefanović also expressed interest in acquiring an unspecified type of missile that could be fired by both Typhoon and Rafale under the deal and said the willingness of France or the UK United to sell this missile would be a factor in any buying decision.
“What’s interesting to me and what I’ve talked about with Air Force experts is the capabilities that a potential partner [nation] can offer us. If Britain offers us a missile that has twice the range of an aircraft with characteristics similar to the Rafale, it is a huge advantage for the Air Force when you can hit someone with a missile at 300 km compared to when shooting at 120 or 150 km. If a partner [nation] don’t offer us such a missile, and they have this kind of weapons but they say we are not ready to sell it to you, it should be considered,” Stefanović said.
Most Serbian military equipment dates from the days of the Yugoslav army, and modernization is vital for Belgrade. Serbia, being the largest succeeding nation to Yugoslavia, inherited the entire inventory of the former Yugoslav Air Force, which included 31 J-22 subsonic twin-engine attack aircraft. In addition to this, Serbia also had several MiG-21s and MiG-29s.
Following the crash of a MiG 21 on September 25, 2020, the fighter jet was completely withdrawn from service, mainly due to a lack of spare parts, age and safety records. As of 2021, Serbia operates 6 MiG-29 and 17 J-22 multi-role fighters.
Control of national airspace is central to Serbia’s efforts to modernize its defense systems due to the country’s memory of past conflicts.
The last two times Serbia was involved in a great power conflict was during the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia, preceded by the Nazi bombing of Belgrade in April 1941, and the NATO intervention during the Kosovo War in 1999. In both cases, Serbia faced superior air power.
Therefore, the acquisition of advanced western fighters such as the Rafale or the Eurofighter would certainly be a shot in the arm for the Serbian Air Force. The UK has 30 Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons which it plans to sell from 2025, and Serbia could be a potential customer for the planes.
The Eurofighter Tranche 1 is the oldest variant of the four developed and it is largely capable of using air-to-air missiles only with very limited air-to-ground capabilities. Consequently, it is often limited to air superiority missions such as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) purposes by its operators.
Apart from Serbia, Greece is also reportedly considering acquiring these 30 Tranche 1 Typhoons from Britain as part of the effort to modernize its fighter fleet amid tensions with Turkey.
Furthermore, the missile with an operational range of 300 km that Serbia has expressed interest in is probably the “Anglo-French” Storm Shadow / SCALP air-launched cruise missile that the Eurofighter and Rafale can fire at Air-to-ground purposes, however, Tranche 1 Typhoons cannot use this missile.
Thus, Serbia is most likely looking to acquire new aircraft that Britain or France are unlikely to consider selling, given the recent delivery of Chinese FK-3 medium-range surface-to-air missiles to the Serbia, which has sparked controversy in Europe. .
Serbia draws closer to China
Serbia has been a member of the European Union since 2012, however, its proximity to Russia and China is a cause for concern across Europe.
As an official candidate for EU membership, Serbia is forced to gradually align its foreign and security policy with the Union, and buying Chinese anti-aircraft missiles is exactly the opposite of what made the first country in Europe to operate Chinese missiles.
Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic warned that Serbia was buying weapons from countries that “appeared to be declared enemies of Europe and NATO”.
Germany also urged Serbia to confirm EU foreign and security policy, days after Chinese Y-20 jets delivered the FK-3 missile systems to the Balkan country.
“The German government expects all applicants for EU membership to join the common foreign and security policy of the European Union and thus draw ever closer to the EU,” said the German Federal Press Office in a statement.