Slovenia Merges Air Force and Air Defence Units

ON FEBRUARY 1, all the Slovenian Army’s (SV — Slovenska Vojska) air force and air defence units were integrated into a new unit known as the Brigada Zracne Obrambe in Letalstva (BRZOL — Air Defence and Air Force Brigade).

An official establishment ceremony was held at Cerklje ob Krki air base on February 12, attended by Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, who said that forming BRZOL would make military aviation and air defence units more effective. Integrating Slovenia’s air force and air defence assets into a single unit took place just three years and three months after they were separated, when the 1st Operational Command of the Slovenian Army disbanded in November 2004.

BRZOL is made up of a Command, the 9th Air Defence Battalion, the 15th Helicopter Battalion, 16th Airspace Control Battalion, 107th Logistical Base, an Aviation School, Aircraft Technicians Unit and a Military Air Traffic Company. All use Cerklje ob Krki as their home base, though only three are aviation units, these three constituting the only units in the entire Slovenian air arm.

The 15th Helicopter Battalion is equipped with four AS532AL Cougar and eight Bell 412 helicopters. Some of the latter have been modified for air-to-ground operations and equipped with MAG 7.62mm general purpose machine-guns and rocket pods for firing 70mm unguided rockets.

The only other helicopters the Slovenian Army has in service are three Bell 206B-3 JetRangers at the Aviation School, which are expected to be augmented by two more examples over this year and next.

The Aviation School also uses eight Zlin 242L and two Zlin 143L piston-engined aircraft, mainly for basic training. For more advanced flying, and for air-to-ground fire support operations, it has two Pilatus PC-9 and nine Pilatus PC-9M Hudomik (Swift) turboprops.

Modernised by Radom Aviation Systems of Israel, the PC-9Ms have been equipped with HOTAS (Hands-on-Throttle-and-Stick) controls, night vision goggles and head-up displays and are armed with HMP 12.7mm machine-gun pods, Mk 81/82 bombs and LAU-7/19A rocket pods for firing 70mm unguided rockets.

The only other fixed-wing aircraft in service with Slovenian Army -one Let L-410UVP-E Turbolet and two Pilatus PC-6B Porters -are at the 107th Logistical Base. This unit was to have operated a brand-new EADS CASA C-295 tactical transport aircraft, which was selected by the Slovenian MoD in early January 2008. However, the procurement was halted following the crash of a Polish Air Force C-295 on January 23 (see Slovenia Abandons C-295 Procurement, March, p8) and is now in limbo.

Slovenia does not operate jet fighters, believing that investing in such assets would be too costly, and unnecessary for such a small Balkan nation. Policing its air space has been the responsibility of NATO since Slovenia joined the Alliance in March 2004.

However, this may change in the light of reports that Slovenia may eventually opt to establish its own fighter jet force, which could begin air policing missions around the year 2015. In the 1990s, Slovenia considered acquiring ten IAI Kfir jet fighters, though more recently its preference was for F-16s or JAS39 Gripens.

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