Macedonian modernisation begins with helicopter overhaul
The Aviation Brigade of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia (ARM) on 5 March received back from general overhaul a pair of transport-configured Mi-17 helicopters, marking the event with an official ceremony on 6 March at Petrovec airbase, near Skopje, in presence of Macedonian defence minister Zoran Jolevski and aviation brigade commander Colonel Robert Malezanski.
The two aircraft, bearing the identification numbers 302 and 303, have now become operational with the Aviation Brigade's Transport Helicopter Squadron.
Commenting on the event, Jolevski said that the newly overhauled Mi-17s are part of a batch of 10 MVV helicopters scheduled to undergo a general overhaul over a two-year period, with four more to return to service by the end of this year. Describing the successful overhaul of the Mi-17s as the first visible result of the ongoing modernisation of the ARM, Jolevski said that a group of air force technicians had recently completely their training abroad and are now certified to maintain the ARM's helicopters.
The long-postponed modernisation of the ARM was finally initiated in November 2014 when under Jolevski's direction a dozen integrated project teams were created in the Macedonian Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the goal of analysing the global defence market in order to define what equipment was urgently needed by the Macedonian military.
Not much was known about the modernisation plans until April 2016, when Macedonian government officials revealed that the process is alive and will be supported by multi-year financing to the tune of more than EUR200 million (USD211 million): funds that will be invested to significantly improve national defence capacities while at the same transforming the Macedonian military into a more capable NATO-compatible force.
According to a number of follow-on official statements, interviews, and media reports, the modernisation of the ARM is expected to lead to the procurement of new armoured personnel carriers in 4x4 and 8x8 configurations, new 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, the modernisation of the ARM's fleet of T-72A main battle tanks, the procurement of different types of personal equipment as well as more sophisticated systems for special forces use, and improvements to the country's air surveillance and air defence capacities.
Source: By Igor Bozinovski, Skopje - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly – March 9, 2017
Photo: Macedonian Air Force Mi-17 number 303: one of a pair of transport-configured Mi-17s received back into service on 5 March after an overhaul. (Source by I Bozinovski / Milavia.net)