While several airlines have suspended flights to and from Russia, other flights from neutral nations have continued to operate despite the dangers. After a bomb threat was discovered on a Turkish commercial plane flying from Moscow to Istanbul in the early hours of March 21, local media Hungary Today claimed that the Hungarian Defense Forces had to scramble their Gripen aircraft.
After receiving a bomb threat over Polish territory, NATO’s Joint Air Operations Center dispatched Hungarian Gripen fighter fighters to assist. As the Turkish-flagged plane entered Hungarian airspace, the Gripens spotted it and escorted it to the Romanian border. Before returning to the Kecskemét base, the Gripen aircraft lingered in the region and conducted patrols.
This isn’t the first time the HAF has needed to send out its Gripens. According to the news outlet quoted above, a civilian Airbus A321 flight from Georgia to Poland received a threat on March 19, necessitating action by Hungarian fighter fighters.
After Belgrade’s control tower warned Hungarian air traffic control that the plane was carrying a bomb, a Serbian Airbus A-319 airliner flying from Belgrade to Moscow was turned back at the Hungary-Slovakia border on March 16. Serbian-Moscow flights have been maintained.
The Hungarian troops’ Gripen fighters were then alerted by NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre, which quickly identified the Serbian plane and escorted it out of Hungary’s airspace.
A Tu-141 “Strizh” reconnaissance drone that was unnamed crashed in Zagreb, Croatia, last week.
Before crashing into Zagreb, the UAV, which is believed to have originated in Ukraine, flew over a number of NATO countries, including Hungary. According to authorities in Zagreb, it entered Croatian airspace from Hungary at a speed of 700 kmph and an altitude of 1,300 metres.
Before crashing in Croatian territory, the drone flew above Hungary for more than 40 minutes. Despite the fact that both Russia and Ukraine have denied firing the drone, military analysts believe Ukraine is the only known operational user of the Tu-141 from the Soviet era.
Hungary’s Saab Gripens
The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a Swedish-made fourth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft with a single engine. This combat jet’s C and D variants have a wide canopy that can accommodate two people. The Gripen C-series can perform a wide range of air-to-air, air-to-surface, and reconnaissance missions because to its cutting-edge weapons.
Hungary first leased the JAS 39 Gripen in 2001, and the aircraft have since received several upgrades. The Gripens’ Puma squadron has been responsible for monitoring Slovenian airspace since 2014. There are presently 12 aircraft in operation that are mostly committed to protecting Hungarian airspace.
The 12 Saab Gripen C and one D aircraft in Hungary’s fleet will be upgraded to the newest MS20 Block 2 standard. In January 2022, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration and the Hungarian Government Commissioner Office signed a memorandum to that effect.
The HunAF Gripen fleet’s MS20 Block 2 upgrade significantly improves communication capacity by improving Link16 (NATO Data Link) functionality and updating voice communication to the most recent NATO secure communication standard. In addition, the NATO Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system will aid in the identifying of coalition aircraft.
Hungary’s Gripen fleet will benefit from these modifications, which will increase its interoperability with other NATO fighter jets and systems. These fighters have played a critical role in defending this NATO country’s airspace, which borders Ukraine. The military alliance, on the other hand, may find Hungary’s posture in this fight unsettling.
Hungary is hesitant to join the EU.
Despite being a NATO member, Budapest chose to support Moscow in its armed fight with Ukraine. Hungary, which is heavily reliant on Russian energy supplies, has stated its opposition to EU sanctions against Russian energy companies, with Budapest’s senior diplomat stating that Budapest will not accept the sanctions. The EU is considering joining the US in slapping an embargo on Russian oil imports, according to sources.
Hungarian Finance Minister Mihaly Varga previously stated that Hungary’s stance on the current sanctions will differ from that of other nations.
“Any action against Moscow would also harm the Hungarian economy,” he said. Hungary would not accept the development of anti-Russian sanctions in the energy sector since it would jeopardise the national currency as well as Hungarians’ well-being.”
This could cause a schism inside the European Union over the subject of sanctions. A lot of European countries are reliant on Russian energy. Perhaps this is why Germany took such a long time to shut down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Moreover, FM Hungary would not send troops or weapons to Ukraine, and will not allow dangerous weapons to traverse its borders in order to keep the country secure, Peter Szijjarto said during a recent visit to Kosovo. The government has also spoken out against the installation of a ‘no-fly zone’ over Ukraine, echoing NATO’s stance.
Although Hungary has worked with NATO thus far, using its fighters to pursue planes that threaten the security of its own and neighbouring airspace, it is at odds with the military alliance on a number of topics related to the Ukraine situation.