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Fighters Russia Donated To Serbia To Enter Service By Year-End

Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin (in black) inspects a Russian MiG jet being upgraded at the Batajnica airfield.

Six MiG-29 fighter jets that Russia donated to Serbia will have their first test flights and enter service by the end of 2018, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin has said.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic had previously said the planes would be put into service by the end of 2017, during a ceremonial handover of the planes in October which was attended by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The planes are currently being upgraded at Serbia's Batajnica airfield. Vulin said on March 19 in Belgrade that the MiG jet pilots will go to Russia for training.

Although Belgrade paid nothing for the aircraft, it will still pay the Russian manufacturer 180 million euros ($212 million) for maintenance. Produced between 1989 and 1991, the MiGs are somewhat newer than Serbia's existing fleet of four MiGs that were delivered in 1987.

Russian state-run news agency TASS reported that Russia is also donating to Serbia as part of the MiG deal two An-26 transport planes, 30 T-72 tanks, and 30 BRDM-2 reconnaissance and patrol vehicles.

TASS also quoted Vucic as saying in an interview that Serbia was holding talks with Russia about purchasing six Mil Mi-17 multirole helicopters, Buk-M1 and Buk-M2 air-defense missile systems, and Tunguska antiaircraft missile/gun complexes.

With reporting by TASS