Slovak Air Force and Air Defence Force / Veliteľstvo Vzdušnych Síl
By Paul van der Linden and Michal Stolar
The Slovak Air Force is one of the youngest air forces in Europe. It was formed on the 1 January 1993 following the split-up of the Czechoslovak Republic as the Letectvo a Protivzdušná obrana Armády Slovenskej republiky. The name changed 1999 to Slovak Air Force. Following the transfer of a large number of aircraft (see table below) to the newly established Slovak Republic during autumn and winter 1992, a major reorganisation took place in the Czech Republic with lots of bases being closed or put on stand-by (Bechyne, České Budějovice, Havlíčkuv Brod, Hradec Králové, Ostrava-Mošnov, Prostějov, Žatec) and the remainder realigned (Čáslav, Kbely, Líně, Námešt nad Oslavou, Pardubice, Přerov). Unfortunately this coincided with the retirement of a large number of aircraft and even the complete withdrawal of the An-12, MiG-21R/US, MiG-23BN/MF/ML/UB and MiG-29 /UB fleet and recently, the Su-22M-4/UM-3 and Su-25K/UBK.
In Slovakia the newly born air force faced a big problem as most air bases were situated at the Czech part of the country. The only active bases in Slovakia were Sliač which housed a squadron of MiG-21's since 1991, Košice where the Air Force Academy was based and Pieštany which also was a training base. Malacky was a base supporting a large nearby shooting range. All four became Slovak Air Force bases along with Prešov and Trenčín, which is the home of the Letecké Opravovne Trenčín. This facility was and is still doing maintenance of various Czech and Slovak Air Force aircraft and helicoptertypes.
The Headquarters of the Air Force was first located in Trenčín, where also the General Staff of the Slovak armed Forces was located. In 1999 it moved to Zvolen. The first commander of the Air Force was major general, then lieutenant general Štefan Gombík. 1998 the command changed to major general Jozef Dunaj. Both were active MiG-29 pilots. 2004 general Dunaj was replaced by general major Juraj Baránek a former Su-22 pilot, wich in turn was replaced 2010 by general major Martin Babiak. Today from september 2012 the Air Force is under command of colonel Miroslav Korba, the last Mi-24 pilot in Prešov. In 2001 a new reorganisation and reduction took place. The bases at Pieštany and Trenčín were closed and their aircrafts and helicopter moved to Malacky-Kuchyna and Prešov. Some squadrons disbanded and other units were renumbered and renamed.
Sliač was a military air base of the Czechoslovak air force since 1924 and from 1968 until late 1990 a Soviet fighter - bomber and helicopter base. In the spring of 1991 81 Samostatná Stíhacia Letka (81SSLt) took up residence. It was one of the squadrons of the disbanded 8 Stíhací Letecky Pluk from Brno and equipped with 23 MiG-21MF/UM/US and 3 L-39ZA. Following the split-up, Sliač became the main Slovak fighter base. On 1 January 1993 1 Stíhací Letecký Pluk (1SLP) was established here. 1 Stíhacia Letka of the regiment was initially operating the 9 MiG-29 and 1 MiG-29UB that had been received as a result of the Czechoslovakian Air Force split-up. In addition the unit received also 6 L-39ZA's. A large number of MiG-21MF/UM/US equipped the 2 and 4 Stíhacia Letka. 3 Letka was flying L-410 and Mi-2 / Mi-17 helicopters in liaison and SAR roles. Twelve extra MiG-29's and 2 MiG-29UB´s were received from Russia in two batches 1993/1994 and 1995/1996. The 1993 batch including 5 MiG-29´s and 1 MiG-29UB entered service with 1 Stíhacia Letka and the second batch of 7 MiG-29´s and 1 MiG-29UB went to 2 Stíhacia Letka which also received all 9 L-39ZA in 1996. 4 Letka also operates the MiG-21R and MiG-21MA for a short while during late 1994 and early 1995 after which they were retired. Following a reorganisation of the Air Force which took place between November 1994 and March 1995, the 1. Regiment was redesignated as 31 Stíhacie Letecké Krídlo. The last MiG-21s were retired 2002 and scraped. After some more reorganisations, Sliač is now home of the Mixed Air Wing (Zmiešané letecké krídlo) of „general major Otto Smik“ (a Word War II pilot of the RAF, shot down near Zwolle in the Netherlands). The 1. Combat squadron (1. Bojová letka) is flying 10 upgraded MiG-29AS fighters and 2 upgraded MiG-29UBS doubleseaters. Three MiG-29 were lost in accidents 2002 and 9 were stored or transfered to museums. The 2. Training squadron (2. Výcviková letka) uses 3 modernized L-39CMs and 3 modernized L-39ZAMs. Some more Albatroses are stored as reserve.
Pieštany was formerly the home of the 3 Letecký Školský Pluk. After the split-up the base became the home of the 2. Zmiešaný Letecký Pluk (2ZmLP). The sole An-12, 2 An-24, 2 An-26, 1 Yak-40 and 1 Tu-154 were operated by the 2 Dopravná Letka. 6 L-410 were under the command of 3 Dopravná Letka. A number of transport helicopters - Mi-2/8/17 equipped the 4 Vrtulníková Letka. Until 23. September 1994 another squadron - 1 Bitevná Letka, was assigned to 2ZmLP operating 12 Su-25's and 3 L-39ZA's out of Trencín. On that date it was transferred to Malacky. The 2. Regiment was redesignated as the 32 Dopravné Letecké Kridlo (32DLK) in 1995, which incorporates most remaining aircraft of the Slovak transport fleet. The former 2 and 3 Transport Squadrons were redesignated as 1 and 2 Squadron. 4. Squadron split into 3 Transport Helicopter squadron and 4. EW Squadron. Some helicopters moved from Pieštany to Trenčín in 1996 to support the Slovak Air Forces HQ there. In late summer 2001 the base and its units were disbanded and the equipment went to Malacky or Prešov respectively.
Located near to a massive training area to the north of Bratislava is Malacky / Kuchyňa. Before 1993 this base was used as a support base for the shooting ranges in the vicinity with L-39V for target towing duties on temporary duty. On 1. January 1993 Malacky became the home of the 3 Stíhací Bombardovací Letecký Pluk (3SBoLP) equipped with two squadrons of Su-22's and two squadrons of MiG-21MA/MF/R and UM's. The MiG-21MA/R's were transferred to Sliač during 1994 and withdrawn from use afterwards. As mentioned under Pieštany the Su-25's moved in on 23. september 1994 and formed the 3 Bitevná Letka. Following the move to Malacky the unit lost it's L-39ZA's to the 31 Wing at Sliač. The former 3, later 4. Squadron operating the MiG-21MF disbanded in 1996. Most aircraft moved to Sliač but five were stored at Malacky. Following the transfer of all L-39ZA's to Sliač the unit gained a number of additional L-29's. The unit in Malacky was redesignated as the 33 Stíhacie Bombardovacie Letecké Krídlo (33SBoLK) during a reorganisation which took place in 1995/1996 with 1 and 2 Letka operating the Su-22M-4/UM-3 and 3 Letka with Su-25K/UBK. Each squadron has some L-29 for training duties. 4 Squadron did not have any aircraft assigned but was made up of pilots prepared for the reconnaissance role. In 1999/2000 eleven Su-22's were sold to Angola including 10 Su-22M-4's and one Su-22UM-3K. The rest of the Su-22´s was assigned to 1 Letka and the L-29 are concentrated in the 2 Letka. At the end of 2001 the 2 Letka transformed to a transport unit equipped with aircraft and helicopters from Pieštany. The L-29 moved to 1 Letka and the 4 Letka was disbanded. In late autumn 2001 Malacky / Kuchyňa was renumbered as 2. Letecká základňa. After some more reorganisation til 2010 Malacky – Kuchyňa is now home of the Letecké dopravné krídlo (Transport air Wing) „generála Milana Rastislava Štefánika“ (aastronomer, World War I pilot and first War minister of the Czechoslovak republic) with two Squadrons flying the sole An-26 and 7 L-410 aircraft.
Formerly a standby airfield with only a ground school Prešov, located in the eastern part of Slovakia, is now the main helicopter base. 4 Vrtulníkový Pluk (4VrP), was established here following the split-up and redesignated as the 34 Vrtulníkové Krídlo (34VrK), in late 1995. It has four squadrons being 1 and 2 Bitevná Vrtulníková Letka, with Mi-24 gunships and 3 and 4 Vrtulníková Letka with Mi-2 / Mi-17 helicopters. In the autum of 2001 the base was renumbered as 3 Letecká základňa. Now Prešov is the home of the Vrtuľníkové krídlo (Helicopter Wing) „general poručíka Jána Ambruša“ (a World War II pilot) with two Squadrons – the SAR and Training Squadron with 4 Mi-17LZPS and 2 Mi-2 helicopters and the Helicopter Transport Squadron with 10 Mi-17M helicopters.
Košice has since the late fifties always been, the main training base of the Czechoslovak / Slovak Air Force providing basic and advanced training for future fighter pilots and multi-engine training for future transport pilots. The 2 Letecký Školský Pluk (2LSP) was redesignated as 5 Letecký Školský Pluk. Following the reorganization during 1995/1996 the unit was redesignated as Výcvikové Stredisko Letectva. It also incorporates the Biele Albatrosy demonstration team with L-39C/V. The L-29 was retired as a training aircraft during the late 90's and either transferred to Malacky or sold on the civil market. On 26 September 2001 the Air force training center was disbanded and the last training squadron with its L-39C/V moved under direct command of the Vojenská Letecká Akadémia in Košice. In 2004 the base was abandoned and all military activities were cancelled.
- Bitevná Letka - Attack Squadron
- Bitevná Vrtulníková Letka - Attack Helicopter Squadron
- Dopravné Letecké Kridlo - Air Transport Squadron
- Dopravná Letka - Transport Squadron
- Letecký Školský Pluk - Air Training Regiment
- Letecká základňa - Air Base
- Samostatná Stíhacia Letka - Independent Fighter Squadron
- Stíhacie Bombardovacie Letecké Krídlo - Fighter Bomber Air Wing
- Stíhací Bombardovací Letecký Pluk - Fighter Bomber Air Regiment
- Stíhacia Letka - Fighter Squadron
- Stíhacie Letecké Krídlo - Fighter Air Wing
- Stíhací Letecky Pluk - Fighter Air Regiment
- Vojenská Letecká Akadémia - Military Air Academy
- Vrtulníkové Krídlo - Helicopter Wing
- Vrtulníková Letka - Helicopter Squadron
- Vrtulníkový Pluk - Helicopter Regiment
- Výcvikové Stredisko Letectva - Flying Training Center
- Zmiešaný Letecký Pluk - Mixed Air Regiment