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Poland to join Czech Republic in defending Slovakian airspace

Polish F-16s will defend Slovakian airspace from 1 September. (Polish MND)

Poland has joined the Czech Republic in announcing it will assign combat aircraft to the defence of Slovakian airspace.

The Polish Ministry of National Defence (MND) said that from 1 September a pair of Polish Air Force (Inspektorat Sił Powietrznych: ISP) Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons will extend their air defence duties to include Slovakia. The announcement came weeks after the Czech Air Force (Vzdusné Sily Armády Ceské Republiky: VSACR) said its Saab Gripen C fighters would do the same.

Throughout the European region, the provision of air defence by one country to a neighbouring country is a model that is becoming increasingly popular, and one that is set to rise as the regional threat factor increases; ageing (particularly Russian-built) jets are retired; production backlogs of popular replacement types, such as the F-16, build up; and defence budgets are squeezed because of rising inflation and other factors.

Ahead of the agreement announced between Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, similar cross-border air-defence arrangements had been put in place by the BENELUX countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, between Germany and Poland, between Bulgaria and Greece, between Albania and Italy, and between Ireland and the UK (although this has never been officially acknowledged). On top of these national arrangements, NATO conducts several international air-policing missions in Europe, comprising the Baltic Air Policing mission over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, the Southern Air Policing mission over Bulgaria and Romania, and the Icelandic Air Policing mission.

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