BELGRADE, Serbia — The Serbian air force has taken delivery of the first of two C-295 transport aircraft ordered last year from Airbus, in what could signal a break from the country’s reliance on Soviet-era and Russian aerial equipment.
In February 2022, Serbia inked a $91 million contract with Airbus for the supply of two military transport planes as well as associated pilot equipment and training services. The agreement also included government-to-government oversight between the ministries of Defense from Spain and Serbia with the aim of developing future defense programs.
The first C-295 is making its way to Belgrade via ferry, on the occasion of the Partner 23 arms fair taking place here from Sept. 25-28. According to the manufacturer, the plane was scheduled to conduct its first overflight above the capital on the opening day followed by the official hand-over ceremony.
The aircraft are produced at Airbus’ production plant in Seville, Spain. They are slated to replace Serbia’s Soviet-era Antonov An-26 aircraft.
The pair of new planes are to be handed over in transport configuration and both equipped with the Pro Line Fusion avionics suite by Collins Aerospace.
Airbus is eager to keep close relations with Serbia, which already operates other products made by the European aerospace and defense giant, a company statement said at the time of the signature of the deal.
The close ties are part of the reason why Belgrade is believed to have a solid shot at joining the SirTAP surveillance drone program led by Airbus, which remains in its pre-design phase.
“Airbus is promoting SirTAP in various countries beyond Spain, the launching nation, and is considering Serbia as a potential future opportunity, but cannot comment on details on the status of potential sales campaigns,” Borja García de Sola, external communications manager at Airbus, told Defense News.
The C-295 type is marketed by the European aircraft manufacturer as a new-generation tactical airlifter designed to carry military cargo, troops, light military vehicles or other aircraft engines. It can transport up to nine tonnes of payload or as many as 71 soldiers or 50 paratroopers.
Serbia has increasingly looked to Europe-based suppliers for military equipment, especially in the air sector. For some time now, the country has been entertaining the possibility of acquiring French-made Rafale fighter jets to replace its MiG-29 fleet and has previously turned to Airbus to supply nine H-145M multi-role helicopters.
In March of this year, the French MoD confirmed to Defense News that there were still ongoing discussions between France and Serbia regarding the possible procurement of the French jets.
Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.