BRATISLAVA Slovakia has received several offers for the purchase or lease of a fleet of fighter jets, including JAS-39 Gripen jets by made by Sweden's, Defence Minister Peter Gajdos said on Wednesday.
The central European NATO member operates a fleet of ageing Russian MiG-29 jets. The minister refused to say how many offers the government had received and from which countries or manufacturers.
"We have received the offers, we are analysing them, there will be talks with the countries that have placed an offer, not just Sweden, and after discussing them with the finance ministry I will submit a proposal for the government's approval," Gajdos told reporters after a regular government meeting.
The three-party government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, re-elected for a second consecutive term in March, has been in talks with Saab on the lease of Gripens.
In September, the government extended the minister's mandate to negotiate with different suppliers to get the best price.
Gajdos said it could take months to analyse the offers before the government picks one.
The Slovak government in December approved a "Joint Sky" agreement with the Czech Republic, which has a fleet of 14 leased Saab Gripens. The Czech government has also approved the accord, which still needs ratification by the parliaments of both countries.
The deal means the two could help protect each other's air space beyond the standard air defence cooperation within NATO.
If Slovakia picked the same fighter jets, the two countries could also share maintenance and pilot training.
Slovakia operates 12 MiG 29s that were modernised in 2005-2006.
(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; editing by Richard Lough)