The Slovak International Air Fest SIAF 2015 is always an interesting airshow option. Combined with the Sliac-based 1st “Tiger” Squadron of the Slovak Air Force flying the MiG-29 Fulcrum the announced highlights for this year included the Romanian MiG-21 LanceR and the B-52 Stratofortress.
Where? Sliac Air Base, Slovakia
In the end the “Buff” unfortunatly cancelled its visit to the static display and the Romanian LanceR also had to cancel due to ‘operational commitments’, which were most probably related to a training exercise with US ANG F-15 units going on at the same time. Nevertheless there was still plenty to see and it became clearly visible that SIAF has evolved and has itself established well in the European airshow scene.
In the static display for example two F-15 Eagles of the US ANG could be seen. The jets were send over from Romania, where the US is currently on exercise with the Romanian AF (the same reason why the LanceR cancelled – talk about changing two F-15s on the ground against one MiG-21 in the air…). A rare appearance was also the Tiger helicopter of the German Army, which look very interesting in comparison to the Hind and the Hip parked nearby.
Of course the missing LanceR was quite a blow, and it would been top of the cake in the flying program including also the Slovakian and Polish MiG-29 Fulcrum solo displays. Nevertheless, there was a wealthy mix of aircraft in Sliac on this last August week-end.
The sign of the future for the Slovak AF (Sl AF) was the “Flypast in pairs – Slovak Airforce modernization” fly-by on Saturday. As the SlAF is still using former Soviet-build aircraft and helicopters throughout its inventory replacements with newer, Western-build types are foreseen. UH-60s will replace the venerable Mi-17 as a combat helicopter, mainly used for transport and rescue, 2 C-27J Spartan are ordered to replace the venerable An-26. Also in spring an agreement has been signed with the Czech Air Force and Saab to prepare a future acquisition of the Gripen as a replacement for the Fulcrum.
Thus three formations were seen on Saturday midday: UH-60 and Mi-17, C-27J and An-26, and the MiG-29. Without the Gripen?! It flew for the training on Friday, but obviously had a defect, as it also dropped out of the schedule for the solo display in the afternoon. Quite a shame, but Saab decided only to arrive with one twin-seater and did not bring a spare.
More cool formations were presented at the opening ceremony of the show at 10am: two MiG-29s in formation and the Slovak L-39, Czech L-159 and British Hawk as a sign of cooperation and heritage!
Further NATO partners of the Slovak republic also made their way to this small spa village, which is also a gate of the Tatra Mountains range. The Polish presence for example was quite strong with two CASA 295 transport aircraft in the static display, supporting the Orlik Team and the MiG-29 solo display.
The Belgian AF participated with the F-16 solo display and the Agusta A109, the Czech Republic brought a Mi-24 to the static display, and the L-159 solo demo, outfitted with the Czech national flag in the back cockpit. The Swedish Gripen completed these jets, and most obviously this jet was brought to Sliac to push once again the envisaged sale to replace the Slovak Fulcrums.
From Switzerland the well-proven combination of the Swiss PC-7 Team and the F-18 Hornet solo display was another highlight. This was maybe only topped by the impressive performance of the Frecce Tricolori, which are always a crowd favorite. Not only because of the charming Italian commentary, but also by the effectful usage of their smoke system. Thankfully it was always a bit windy, otherwise the extensive use is a shame for the participant to follow, as their visibility can be quite decreased.
A lot of applause also went to Zoltán Veres and his aerobatic extravaganza, and flying flat-hat in style! One other rare civilian participant was the P-51D Mustang “Excalibur” of Martin Nepovím from the Czech Republic.
Patrouille de France did arrive from another airshow on Sunday to fly the final demonstration of a stunning(ly) hot airshow week-end. 35°C under a clear blue sky throughout the week-end were enough for me, I was also on my long way back home at this time. But even with missing the last half day of the event, it was once again a perfect week-end in Slovakia. Small, but in style, and still with Fulcrums painting their nice smoketrails in the sky!