The United States is offering 12 new Bell AH-1Z Viper helicopters at a discount to replace the MiG 29 fighter jets Slovakia donated to Ukraine, Slovakia’s acting defense minister, Jaroslav Nad, announced on social media.
According to the Slovak minister, the U.S. offer includes not only the helicopters but also the training of their pilots and about 500 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, for which Slovakia would have to pay approximately €340 million euros over three to four years.
“The remainder, some $660 million, would be a gift from the U.S. government’s defense fund,” Jaroslav Nad was quoted as saying by the Slovak news agency.
Nad believes his country could receive the U.S. helicopters within two years. He noted that the offer is also being considered by other countries and could be partly an indirect compensation for the delay in the delivery of the F-16 fighter jets ordered by Slovakia.
Slovakia’s defense minister noted that in this way his country could receive compensation worth more than €900 million for the MiG 29 fighters given to Ukraine, which includes, in addition to the U.S. rebate on the helicopters, the €200 million promised for the delivery of the fighters and the €50 million European compensation for the Kub air defense system, which was also given to Ukraine.
The offer is still to be decided by the Bratislava government. Eduard Heger’s cabinet, which failed a no-confidence vote last December and has since been acting in a caretaker capacity, decided last week in an online meeting to donate to Ukraine 13 MiG-29 fighter jets and a Kub air defense system — its entire inventory.
Polling shows that a strong majority of the Slovak public is opposed to Slovakia giving weapons to Ukraine. Questions have also been raised about whether the government can even move forward with providing the weapons, as the current government is a “caretaker” government. The country’s opposition accuses the current government of illegally providing the weapons in violation of the country’s constitution.
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The transfer of the Slovak arms follows a pledge by acting Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger, during his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the EU summit in Brussels in early February, that Slovakia would hand over its MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine.
Last week’s decision to hand over the fighters was protested by several Slovak opposition parties, including the opposition Smer-SD, whose president, Robert Fico, announced on Friday that he will file a criminal complaint with the prosecutor general’s office for abuse of office.
According to the Slovak Defense Ministry, as of Wednesday, the fighter jets destined for Ukraine were still on Slovak territory and the process of handing them over will be completed in a few weeks.