Slovakia one step closer to acquiring the Barak MX air defence system

 21. 04. 2024      category: Events
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The unsatisfactory state of air defence is one of the key issues currently being addressed by the Slovak Ministry of Defence. After Slovakia donated the S-300 PMU system and components of the 2K12 Kub systems to Ukraine, assistance from allies was a key element of the Slovak air defence system. A few weeks ago, however, the SAMP/T system, temporarily provided by Italy, was withdrawn from Slovakia and Slovakia has to rely, for the time being, on two German donated MANTIS short-range systems. However, according to Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák, this will soon change. In fact, the purchase of new air defence systems is at stake, specifically the Barak MX system is being discussed.

Foto: Izraelský systém BARAK MX uspěl na Slovensku | IAI
Picture: Israeli Barak MX system | IAI

After a recent exit meeting of the Slovak government, Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák informed the public that discussions on the acquisition of a new air defence system will be concluded in the coming weeks. According to available information, it is highly likely that the acquisition of Israeli Barak MX air defence systems will be discussed. These Israeli-origin sets were assessed by the Ministry of Defence last year as the best of four bids for medium-range air defence systems received by the ministry. The Barak MX outranked another Israeli system, the SPYDER, the German IRIS-T and the French VL-MICA kit. Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák has not yet specified how many Barak MX systems Slovakia is interested in. 

The acquisition of the Barak MX kit would make Slovakia its first European user. This Israeli air and missile defence system, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries, has three launchers, each armed with eight missiles. The manufacturer offers up to three types of missiles for these sets, with ranges of 35, 70 and 150 kilometres. The system is also capable of operating in all weather conditions, tracking and disarming multiple different targets at the same time. Barak MX systems are not yet in the arsenal of any country, but last year Colombia and the year before Morocco chose Barak MX systems.

In addition to the Barak MX air defense systems, Slovakia was also interested in American Patriots. This was stated by Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák in the Slovak RTVS discussion programme "About 5 minutes 12" at the end of January. For the purchase of these US systems, the defence ministry originally wanted to use the nearly 700 million dollars that the US offered Slovakia for the purchase of Viper helicopters in compensation for the previous donation of MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Ukraine. Today, however, the acquisition of Patriots is no longer on the table, according to Minister Robert Kaliňák. At the same time, the Slovak defence chief added that Slovakia's air defence must be adequate and the acquisition of the Barak MX systems will not end its development. According to available information, the defence ministry is also assessing another system from South Korea and the Norwegian NASAMS system.

Slovak air defence currently relies on systems from the Warsaw Pact era. Specifically, the 2K12 Kub and 9K38 Igla portable systems. As stated in the Comprehensive Defence Assessment of the Slovak Republic for 2022, the air defence assets in the armament of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic are beyond their useful life and the Slovak Army lacks modern air defence systems. Improving and building robust air defence is one of the goals of the current leadership of the Slovak Ministry of Defence, which is certainly a step in the right direction. According to the statement of Slovak Defence Minister Robert Kaliňák, the next steps in the acquisition of air defence assets should be known within a few weeks. 

In case of successful negotiations with Israel on the acquisition of Barak MX systems, it will be interesting to see to what extent the Slovak defence industry will be involved in this project. It was the Israeli bids for the Barak MX and SPYDER sets that were the only ones to declare the involvement of the Slovak defence industry. However, according to the assumptions of the Value for Money Unit, it is not very likely that Slovak companies will be involved in the sophisticated part of the production.

 Author: Mgr. Otto Dóka

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