Sept 16, 2015 defense-aerospace.com
(Source: Defence24.com Poland; posted Sept 15, 2015)
Slovakian authorities have stated they are willing to increase defense spending up to 1.6% of GDP until 2020, which in fact means an increase of 50% compared to 2014. Bratislava’s initiative falls within the trend towards increased defense spending of the states located within the region, and known as the Visegrad 4.
Slovakian Minister of Defence Martin Glváč, during a recent visit by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said that Bratislava is willing to increase the defence spending up to the level of 1.6% of GDP until 2020. According to the Slovakian MoD, this year’s budget, thanks to additional funds, attained 1.1% of GDP.
If the increase is implemented, the overall increase would exceed 50% compared to last year, when defense spending in Slovakia was set at 1.0% of GDP. The increase is further amplified by the effect of the economic growth (which is estimated by the European Commission to reach 3.0% and 3.4% respectively for this year and 2016).
Realizing the nature of the threat posed by earlier cuts, Slovakian authorities have decided to raise the level of the combat capabilities of their Armed Forces. Ongoing or planned modernization initiatives include procurement of Black Hawk multi-role helicopters and of Polish-Slovak Scipio APCs. It is also expected that new multi-role fighters and three-dimensional ground-based radars are going to be acquired, among other plans.
It also is expected that Slovakia will boost the number of its military personnel. This is seen as a priority since the Ukrainian crisis and the inflow of immigrants both have exposed the need for expanded military capabilities.
Initial decisions to increase defence spending by the Czech Republic and Hungary have already been made. It also is expected that troop numbers will also be boosted, probably through increased manning levels of existing units, which is somewhat ironic given the manning cuts implemented in recent years.
Of course, improvements in equipment and manning levels will not be implemented overnight.
Each of the V4 group states has two general military brigades at their disposal. However, the number of their supersonic combat jets is lower than that of Poland’s F-16 fighters. Despite the significant quantitative cuts, older types of armament are still being used, such as the T-72M1 tanks in case of Slovakia and Hungary, or Kub (NATO Codename: Gainful) SAM systems.
Nonetheless, both the gradual expansion of the combat capabilities, as well as participation in the NATO operations (Czech contribution to the VJTF element in 2015) are seen as steps in the right direction.
Poland at the moment has the largest defence budget of the V4 Group of nations, both in absolute quantities and if terms of share of GDP. However, as a nation facing a potential threat of conventional aggression, Poland should further increase defence spending.
In order to continue and accelerate the modernization process and, simultaneously, in to rebuild the reserves and territorial defence systems, military spending should be boosted well beyond 2% of GDP. This would not threaten financial stability since a similar situation is experienced this year: including the F-16 payment instalments, fully 2.27% of GDP will go to defense.
At the same time, increasing the defence expenditure above the level defined by NATO would constitute a strong and necessary signal to remaining allies. It is also worth noting that expansion of the scope of V4 Group modernization constitutes a good opportunity Polish defense industry, as demonstrated by the joint development of the Scipio APC for the Slovakian Army.