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NEW NEWS 17 Mar 17

Serbia Wastes Cash Earmarked for Jet Upgrade

Security think tank says millions of euros earmarked for upgrading out-of-date Super Galeb jets has been spent elsewhere, as ministries haggle over the cost of the project.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

Supergaleb G-4 airplane I Photo: Wikimedia/Srdjan Popovic

A new report by the think tank Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, BCSP, shows that Serbia’s Defence Ministry spent 7.4 million euros from 2013 - earmarked for the modernization of the ancient Super Galeb G-4 fighter jet fleet - on other purposes, because the project has still not got a go-ahead from the government.

The project to upgrade the 10 or so Super Galebs, which date back to the 1980s, has been called the most valuable of the three major projects of the Defence Ministry in recent years.

The BCSP survey, presented this week, recalled that modernization of the Super Galeb G-4s was a long-term strategic decision, designed to maintain the air power of the Serbian armed forces, whose future had been the subject of much speculation for years owing to the lack of money to purchase new aircraft.

“Our findings … point to serious deficiencies in planning, which are preventing the timely and realistic use of the ministry’s money,” Katarina Djokic, from BCSP, told BIRN.

The Super Galeb G-4s, designed mainly for advanced flight training and for pilots in combat, were used as “fire support” on the Serbian military’s last exercise, codenamed “Morava 2016”, which suggests the armed forces count on their potential use in combat operations as well.

However, Djokic added that although the modernization project had not been realized, from 2013 until last year the Defence Ministry had still spent 7.4 million euros of its funds on it.

Upgrading the Super Galebs is included in this year’s ministry budget as well. By the end of 2017 it is predicted that Serbia will have spent 4.4 million euros on that purpose.

Djokic said the ministry told the BCSP that the upgrading project had not started because the government still had not approved it.

Because of that, the money was spent on equipping the lab facilities of the Military Technical Institute, the “Moma Stanojlovic” Institute of Aviation and the Technical Test Center, as well on maintenance of other aircraft.

“All of those could be called justified needs, but question is why is it not in the budget?” Djokic asked.

She added that Serbia’s plans to obtain MiG fighter jets from Russia raised another question, about whether modernization of the Supergaleb G-4s was still necessary.

The Ministry of Defence was not available for immediate comment. However, its previous answers to BCSP confirmed that the government had not approved realization of the project due to the reluctance of the Ministry of Finance to approve the cash.

“Since the Ministry of Finance was unable to approve additional funds that would provide multi-year funding of this project, there were … no conditions for implementation of the tender procedure for the selection of a strategic partner from abroad,” the ministry told BCSP last October.

The ministry said it had in the meantime conducted “preparatory activities for implementation [of the project] through development of capacity of institutions to be active participants in the project.”

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