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Zmiešané Letecké Krídlo; Malacky-Kuchyña, June 9 & 10, 2010

Part 3: The Slovakian Fighter Wing; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

After a somewhat disappointing day at Prešov, I was on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 welcome at Sliač. Sliač is normally the home base of the Slovakian Fighter Wing. The Fighter Wing was temporarily based at Malacky Kuchyňa due to construction work at the runway. The Fighter Wing flies the Mig-29 Fulcrum and the L-39 Albatross.

Sliač is the home base of the First Fighter Wing of the Slovakian Air Force. The unit has the honorary title of Otto Smik (Zmiešané Letecké Krídlo Otta Smika). Otto Smik was an important personality for Slovakia during the Second World War and he is a legend in the RAF. During his youth, he had to flee from Slovakia because of the upcoming fascism. He decided to fight this and he joined the RAF where he would become a true ACE. The 127th squadron of the Royal Air Force received an assignment to destroy a major supply line of the Germans near Zwolle in the eastern part of the Netherlands. It was in November 1944 in the aftermath of World War II. The squadron, led by the 22-year-old Slovak Otto Smik, flew straight into a German air raid. Otto Smik was shot down together with his Belgian wingman Taymans. Smik and Taymans exchanged their passports before their flight and therefore Smik was initially buried in Belgium. Smik was finally buried under his real name on a Canadian military cemetery in Belgium when the Dutch after the war discovered the mystery of the passports. In 1994 he flew for the last time back to his homeland. The name of Otto Smik was given to the airbase of Sliač by Major General Obituary in 2002.

Sliač is located in the center of the country near Banská Bystrica. The base was founded by the former Soviet army in 1968 and it was used as a diversion base for helicopters and light transport aircraft. In 1988, the base came back under the command of the Czechoslovakian Republic. In 1993 Sliač became the main operational base in Slovakia after the split of Czechoslovakia when the MiG-21 and the MiG-29 arrived. The MiG-21 was retired after a few years. The First Fighter Wing is composed of two squadrons. The first unit is the no 1 Stíhacia Letka (no 1 Fighter Squadron) which operates the MiG-29AS Fulcrum and MiG-29UBS Fulcrum. The second unit is the no 2 Stíhacia Letka (no 2 Training Squadron) which is equipped with the L-39CM Albatross and the L-39ZAM Albatross. The main task of the no 1

Fighter Squadron is to defend the Slovakian airspace against unwanted intruders. There are permanently two MiG-29 aircraft on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). Initially, the Slovakian Air Force received nine aircraft of the type MiG-29A and one of the type MiG-29UB after the separation in 1993. The Russians delivered twelve MiG-29A and two MiG-29UB aircraft to Slovakia. Nowadays the Slovakian Air Force operates ten MiG-29A and two MiG-29B aircraft. The remaining aircraft are in storage at Sliač. The main task of the no 2 Training Squadron is to train pilots. Besides these tasks, the unit also carries out ground assaults with the L-39 Albatross if necessary. The unit operates ten L-39 Albatross aircraft for this duty.

The weather was great when we arrived at Malacky for our first visit. We arrived in the afternoon at 2 PM with our group and our guide was already present at the gate. It appeared that our guide himself was an aviation photographer as well; therefore he also had his camera with him. It promised to be a great afternoon for us. The Slovakian Fighter Wing is temporarily based at Malacky-Kuchyña, because the runway at Sliač is under construction at this time. We were able to make photographs of all the Slovakian fighters on this base during our two days visit. Once we were on the field, we walked straight to the flightline where all the fighters were lined up. It was a busy place here with fighters. There were five L-39’s and two MiG-29's present on the platform. The first aircraft which started its engine was a green camouflaged L-39. This aircraft was being prepared for a test flight. The light on the aircraft was more than perfect. The other four L-39’s were painted in red, white and blue colors of the former display team Biele Albatross. There was more than enough action on this platform. It seems we had chosen the right day to come to this base. All the L-39 started their engines for a mission in a time window of 45 minutes.

The flight line was empty now. Our guide told us that it was better to go to the opposite side of the runway because the light on the aircraft was better on that side. Our coach was the perfect person for a visit like this, because he understood exactly how photography works. The first L-39 was coming in for landing when we arrived on the other side of the main runway. We were just at the right location along the runway where the aircraft made their touchdown. This really was the perfect spot for some spectacular landing shots. The MiG-29 finally returned after the landing of several L-39’s and one Let-410. I could see the aircraft from a big distance when it came in for landing; I saw the typical long plumes of black smoke behind the aircraft in the distance. I made some great action shots of the MiG-29 during its touchdown. The flying activities were great today. All aircraft came back from their missions and within thirty minutes they departed again for another mission with different pilots. This was also the case for the MiG-29. The MiG-29 appeared on the taxi track across the runway. I stood exactly in front of this taxi track and I was able to photograph the MiG from the front side. I took a picture of the front of the MiG-29 with a black cloud of smoke behind it. After the departure of the MiG, we returned to the flightline. This gave me some great photos under great light conditions. After a while we heard two QRA MiG’s being scrambled. The aircraft made a backtrack over the runway towards our position. One of the two MiG’s had the digital camo print which was beautiful. I took some spectacular photos of the armed MiG’s. My first day at Malacky was over after the departure of these QRA MiG's. The next day would be just as spectacular as the previous one. Today there was another MiG flying compared with the day before. During my two day visit at Malacky I managed to capture four different MiG’s in flight and one in a proper position on the platform. My visit to the Slovakian Fighter Wing which was temporarily based at Malacky was therefore a great success. During these two days I also would visit the Slovakian Transport Wing which is permanently based on Malacky-Kuchyňa.

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