Air Tattoo Welcomes Back the Hungarians
Published: 29 May 2015
This summer will see us welcome back the Hungarian Air Force who have agreed to send two aircraft for the static park: a JAS 39 Gripen fighter and an Antonov An-26 transport.
Hungary became an operator of the highly successful Saab JAS 39 Gripen in 2006, when it took on charge the first of 14 examples. Currently operated under a leasing arrangement with the Swedish government, renewed for another decade during 2012, these comprise a dozen single-seat JAS 39C variants and a pair of JAS 39D two-seaters. All 13 survivors are flown by the 'Puma' squadron of the 59th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kecskemét. Adding the Gripen to its inventory has boosted significantly the front-line capabilities of the Hungarian Air Force, which was previously reliant on Warsaw Pact-era combat equipment like the MiG-29. Hungary has recently committed its Gripens to the multi-national air policing efforts over Slovenia and the Baltic states. Plans are in progress to add an air-to-ground weapons capability to the Hungarian JAS 39 fleet, in order for the aircraft to be deployable in the close air support role.
The Antonov An-26 is now a comparatively rare sight in European skies, many of the former Warsaw Pact air arms having retired the type - known under the NATO codename system for Soviet-built aircraft as the 'Curl' - in favour of newer Western equipment. The Hungarian Air Force, however, still has four An-26s on strength with its fixed-wing transport squadron at Kecskemét. The twin-turboprop tactical transport made its maiden flight in 1969, and was produced to the tune of over 1,400 examples. It was based on the earlier An-24, incorporating a rear loading ramp among other improvements. Extensive sales to Communist countries for both military and civil use were guaranteed, but numbers in service are now dwindling. Hungary will soon begin to seek a replacement for its An-26 fleet.