Air force looking at major investments

An air traffic control tower.
The Cerklje ob Krki air base. Photo: STA

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec announced major investments in the air force fleet as he addressed a ceremony marking Slovenian Military Aviation Day at the Cerklje ob Krki air base on 12 January. The air base is undergoing renovation, which will create new jobs.

After years of austerity, time has come for more encouraging budgets, and the 2023 and 2024 budgets allocate more funds not just for achieving NATO goals, but also for achieving Slovenia’s goals and equipping the army, Šarec said.

He announced investments into a new air fleet, new capabilities and the construction of a hangar for a new C-27 Spartan tactical transport aircraft that is expected to arrive this year. To make sure at least one aircraft is available at all times, another transport plane is to be purchased.

Šarec said the military aviation needed to be modernised because the scope of its tasks would only increase. Its hub at Cerklje ob Krki, in the south-east of the country, has also been undergoing modernisation since 2008.

The first phase, which was to a large extent completed last year, came at the cost €73.5 million, with NATO chipping in €41.5 million, Željko Kralj, the head of the logistics directorate at the Defence Ministry, said.

The second phase, which includes the construction of reservoirs and a renovation of a pipeline between Krško and the air base, started this year and is slated for completion by 2028. The value of the project is estimated at €82 million, €60 million of which will come from NATO.

The air base currently employs about 400 staff, but the upgrade will create new jobs. Milan Žurman, adviser to the chief of the general staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, said 75 soldiers and 25 other personnel would be recruited, with another 100 contract reserve soldiers required on top.

The first Slovenian military pilots joined the units led by General Rudolf Maister, having been trained in the Austro-Hungarian air force. The Ljubljana air unit made its first combat flight with three two-seater aircraft on 12 January 1919. The two pilots who flew on a reconnaissance flight to Carinthia fired at Austrian troops.

Today the Slovenian Military Aviation fleet includes eight Bell-412 helicopters, four AS 532 AL Cougar helicopters, two Pilatus PC-6 Turboporter transport aircraft, one L-410 Turbolet transport aircraft and the Falcon 2000 EX. The aviation school has four Bell-206 Jet Ranger helicopters, two Zlin 143L aircraft, eight Zlin 242L planes and nine Pilatus PC-9/9M aircraft.