03:06 GMT +317 November 2019
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    Mi-8 helicopters of the Russian Air Force during a joint battalion drill of the airborne units of Russia, Belarus and Serbia (File)

    Can Serbia Become a Regional Center for the Repair of Russian Mi Helicopters?

    © Sputnik / Nikolay Hiznyak
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    The discussion about whether Serbia can become a regional center for the repair of Russian Mi helicopters has been ongoing for over a year. Recently the Serbian Defense Ministry stated that Russia has expressed interest in such a center.

    The latest statements made by the Serbian Defense Ministry suggest that the country is contemplating opening a center for the modernization and repair of Russian Mi helicopters.

    “Everything is going towards this idea getting realized. At first, it will be a small regional center, which in the future should become a large modern center for all of southeastern Europe,” Serbian Defense Minister, Zoran Djordjevic, recently said.

    However, questions remain whether Serbia has the right opportunities for such a center and who will be the potential customers once the center is functioning?

    The military observer of the newspaper Politica, Miroslav Lazanski, spoke to Sputnik Serbia saying that an aviation factory called Moma Stanojlovic could be suitable for such a center but the problem is that in the last few years Serbia has sent its best workers into retirement: engineers and highly qualified technicians.

    Training an aircraft or helicopter specialist within just a year or even within three years is not quite possible.

    Similarly, another military analyst Andrej Mlakar told Sputnik Serbia that during the times of the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [SFRY], local factories had a license to repair all types of Soviet helicopters.

    He also pointed to the issue of the lack of specialists, noting that three NATO member countries, Bulgaria, Croatia and the Czech Republic, already use the Mi helicopters.

    Interestingly, in Croatia eight out of 10 Russian helicopters have crossed their service life and this fact has left a number of rescuers quite alarmed.

    “They were promised American transport helicopters but the situation is still the same there and already a conversation is ongoing about where to repair the Russian helicopters,” Mlakar said, adding that, “logically Croatia could service their helicopters with Serbia but whether they would agree to that, remains a big question.”

    The military analyst Aleksandar Radic shared his opinion saying that the big question is how feasible is it to open a repair center in Serbia considering the fact that currently there is only one Mi-17 helicopter in Serbia and two more arrived just last year so they will not be needing any service any time soon.

    He added that there is also the situation with NATO. The rules of the game are clearly formulated within NATO, so if, for example, Bulgarian Mi need maintenance or servicing, a carte blanche is provided with the factories located on the territory of the alliance.

    “Croatia, for example, does not show the slightest desire to be repaired in Serbia, Macedonia has already been repaired in Lithuania and now gradually and secretly it is passing on to Ukraine. Also Bosnia, in general, always relied on Ukrainian factories,” the analyst said.

    Radic concluded by saying that before seriously talking about repairs in Serbia it is necessary to understand whether there is a market for it given that there are repair centers in Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

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    Tags:
    weapons, modernization, interview, repair plant, helicopter, Mi-14, NATO, Serbia
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