BELGRADE Dec 29 Serbia agreed on Thursday to
buy nine helicopters from Airbus Helicopters to bolster
its defences, part of a wider modernisation plan that also
includes the procurement of aircraft and equipment from Russia.
Serbia's military, including its air force, was depleted
during the wars of the 1990s and most of its existing aircraft
are nearing the end of their lifetime.
Without specifying the price or timeframe for delivery, the
Defence Ministry said in a statement the contract with Airbus
was for the purchase of nine H145M light helicopters with spares
and tools, to be used by both military and police.
Serbia's military budget for 2017 is set at 61 billion
dinars (494 million euros), around 1.4 percent of national
The deal also involves a transfer of technology for
maintenance of the aircraft and training for pilots and land
"With this procurement, the Air Force as well as the
Helicopter Unit of the Interior Ministry will be equipped with
the latest generation of helicopters," the statement said.
Earlier this month, Russia donated six MIG-29 fighter jets
to Serbia, on condition Belgrade pays for their overhaul. In
June, Serbia also bought two Russian Mi17 utility helicopters
for 25 million euros.
Serbia is balancing its relations with Russia, a traditional
Slavic and Orthodox Christian ally, with a push to join the
European Union and foster ties with NATO, though it wants to
remain militarily neutral.
On Dec. 15, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that in
addition to the purchase of nine Airbus Helicopters aircraft,
another four could be donated.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Potter)