Double Dutch Magazine

`The Magyar Honvedseg Repülö Csapatai (MHRC)

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Since March 12th 1999 the Hungarian Republic has become a full member of NATO along with two other former Warsaw Pact members, Poland and Czech Republic. This in a year in which NATO ‘celebrates’ its 50th anniversary and neighboring country Yugoslavia is in ‘war’ with this same NATO…….

After the occupation by Soviet forces, they started to rebuild the Hungarian Forces under their supervision in 1947. In March 1951 the first Russian build jets arrived in Hungary, being the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 (Fagot). In October 1956 the Hungarian people resisted against the communism, but this "revolution" was quickly defeated by the Russians. The Revolution meant for the airforces that they were totally dismantled for the second time in their history. The Hungarian Government formally returned to the Soviet Union 93 MiG-15, 11 MiG-15bis, 21 MiG-15UTI, 12 MiG-17PF and 20 MiG-17F from the impounded assets of the Air Force. The remainder of their assets were enough for their training tasks. All of these types were National build. In October 1957 nevertheless, the airforces were being rebuild again with the approval of the Soviet Union. They returned the impounded aircraft, and by the end of that same year there were three regiments operational with MiG-15/MiG-17. Springtime 1957 saw even the introduction of the MiG-17PF (Fresco)[12] with the Hungarian airforce. 1959/1960 saw again a new introduction, the airforce received 12 MiG-19PM (Farmer). Conversion to the MiG-21F-13 started in 1962[80] and a lot of another MiG-21 version followed, in 1964 the MiG-21PF[24], in 1971 the MiG-21MF[50]……. The Air Force of the Hungarian People’s Army after several reorganizations in the 1980s consisted of 3 Air Wings (Pápa, Taszár and Kecskemét) and a few transport and Army Aviation units. It did not have any fighter bombers or attack aircraft at all until 1984, as the Soviet troops were dominating everywhere and their plans were ready in case of war to carry out combat activities from the Hungarian airbases with Air Wings re-deployed from the military district of Ukraine and Western Russia within 48-72 hours. In 1983 a quick decline of the Air Force started, because of the financial policy of the Hungarian Socialist People’s Party wedging on the brink of bankruptcy deprived the army of resources to be spent on modernization. It was not possible to implement the necessary upgrade and procurement of new air defense missiles. At this time 2 squadrons of MiG-23MF/UB, 1-2 squadrons of Su-22M3/UM3 aircraft were left undeveloped delaying the replacement of MiG-21 aircraft as well. There were no financial resources to purchase the MiG-29A offered in 1988-89. As of April 1st 1991 the Warsaw Pact was disestablished, the Soviet troops left Hungary as well. The last Soviet MiG-29’s left Hungary on June 5th 1991. During the period of March 1990/June 1991 the following bases were evacuated by the Soviets; Csákvár (Mi-8/Mi-24), Debrecen (MiG-23/MiG-27), Kalocsa (Mi-8/Mi-24), Kiskunlacháza (MiG-29), Kunmadaras (MiG-27/Su-17/Su-24), Sármellék (MiG-29) and Tököl (MiG-29).

After the political system changed in 1990 the constrained reorganization started due to the lack of finances which affected the aviation, because they could not preserve even their existing power. The aircraft delivery after 1990 was mainly carried out in exchange for Russian State debts, for example, 22 MiG-29B and 6 MiG-29UB were received in 1994. On 1st September 1997 the Air Force Staff of the Hungarian Defense Forces was established again, thus after a break lasting since 4 November 1956 the Air Force became an independent Armed Service again.

Today’s backbone of the MHRC consists of only four squadrons, just half of what it was several years before. In December 1996 the MiG-23MF (Flogger) was withdrawn from use. Although the MiG-23 is a good interceptor, there was no real use for it anymore as the MiG-29 was more capable. Further more the high operational costs and low operational percentage of 25% were also a reason to withdraw the type as such. Most MiG-23’s had only 75 flying hours remaining before they needed an expensive overhaul. The nine remaining MiG-23MF’s and two MiG-23UB’s are for sale since December 1996, since then only India has had interest in these aircraft with no result so far. Another type that was withdrawn from service in 1996 was the MiG-21MF, because of the fact that as a weapons system they are to old. Nowadays they are a spare parts resource for the ‘newer’ MiG-21bis/UM’s. In 1983 the MHRC received the attack bomber Su-22M3 (Fitter), due to the fact that after the Warsaw Pact period the MHRC became a purely Air Defensive character, there was no real need for an attack bomber like the Su-22M3 Fitter. In February 1997 the only Hungarian strike-fighter and reconnaissance aircraft (the Su-22M3 could carry besides air-to-ground weapons also the KKR-1TE/2MK photo reconnaissance/ ELINT-pod). Strangely enough six of remaining nine Su-22’s received a mid-life overhaul at the Danubian Aircraft Company and received a structural lifetime extension for another 1000 flying hours! Just several months after completion the type was withdrawn from use and since than the Su-22M3 are for sale. A neighboring country has shown some interest, but the fact that the Hungarians flew with the Su-22M3 variant, which uses the Tumanskii R-29BS-300 engine doesn’t make the sale any easier. Most of the Su-22 Fitter users fly the M4 variant with the Lyulka AL-21F3 engine. The Hungarians choose the Su-22M3 version because the engines were exchangeable with the MiG-23. It is therefore very likely that the Su-22’s will be shredded in the future.

How does the Hungarian Air Force look like since their integration with NATO?

As mentioned earlier the backbone of the Air Force only consists of four squadrons with fighter aircraft. Two with MiG-21bis/UM’s at Pápa AB and two with the MiG-29’s at Kecskemét AB. Fall 1993 saw the delivery of the first MiG-29’s to the Hungarian AF in exchange for the Russian State debts with 59HRE at Keckemét AB. In total 22 MiG-29 (Fulcrum-A) and 6 MiG-29UB’s (Fulcrum-B) were delivered. Together with this deal was also the training of the first group of pilots at the Russian MiG-29 base Krasnodar. After that Russian officers were to be escorted at Kecskemét AB. The "Dongó" repülöszázad was the first operational Fulcrum unit as of 1st September 1994, followed by the "Puma" repülöszázad one year later. The fixed armament of the MiG-29 fighter aircraft is a 30 mm rotary-barrel cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition. From the hard points located under its wings it is capable to launch two R-27R radar-guided and four R-73 IR guide air-combat missiles. In 1996 eight Hungarian AF MiG-29’s visited the Polish MiG-29 base Minsk-Mazowiecki (1PLM) in order to practice with live-firing at Polish ranges. At this point live firing was done with the older but cheaper R-60M missile, though this missile is not standard issue of the MiG-29 weaponry. This year during exercise Ocelot in Poland, the Hungarian MiG-29’s were supposed to participate at this exercise which was held from 24th-28th of May 1999 in order to do live firing at the Polish USTKA range. Due to the Kosovo crisis the participation to the exercise was cancelled from the Hungarian side. The state of the art of the Hungarian AF has no protection of shelters as there are no shelters at Kecskemét AB. The only protection given to the aircraft is the use of good old fashioned canvas covers! Besides the MiG-29, there is also a squadron with L-39ZO based at Kecskemét AB. This unit, "Szárnyas Csikö" operates 19 of the 23 former Eastern German Air Force (NVA) which were donated by Germany in 1993/94. Initially the L-39 was used for training the new fighter pilots coming from the academy at Szolnok. The primary task of the L-39 at this moment is to maintain the flying hours of many of the (surplus) pilots that still serve with the Hungarian Air Force. This in order to keep up with NATO standard although it is very clear that this standard can not be met and it seems better than not flying at all.

The other two fighter squadrons are based at Pápa AB situated in the Western part of Hungary. This is the only base which has 14 concrete shelters for the protection of aircraft and was the most important air base in Hungary for the Soviet troops during the Warsaw Pact period. At Pápa AB is the 47 Harcászati Repülöezred (Tactical Fighter regiment) "Stromfeld Aurel" with Vadászrepülöszázad (Fightersquadron) "Saman" (which operates 10 MiG-21UM trainers) and Vadászrepülöszázad "Griff" (which operates 12 MiG-21bis). The aircraft used by the two squadrons come from a pool of approximately 50 MiG-21’s which are in storage at Pápa. This way all the last MiG-21bis/UM will consume their last flying hours equally. Four MiG-21bis are armed with K-13M, R-3R en R-60 missiles and are on stand-by in shelters close to the runway 24 hours a day. The first airborne within 8 minutes, number four being airborne just two minutes later. It will not take very long though, until this type will also vanish from the Hungarian skies as the MiG-21 will be withdrawn from use before the year 2001.

The MHRC has also a large helicopter base near the town of Veszprém with 87 Harcihelikopter-ezred (Attack helicopter regiment) "Bakony". 1 "Phoenix" Harcihelikopter század with Mi-24D/Mi-24V, 2 "Kerecsen" Harcihelikopter század with Mi-24D+, 3 "Borz" Harchihelikopter század with Mi-8TB and 4 szallitohelikopter-század vegyes with Mi-9/Mi-17 and Mi-17PP. Introduction of the Mi-24D’s gunship helicopters in the Wing started in 1978 followed by Mi-24V’s. Ten modified Mi-24D+’s were delivered in the second batch. The Mi-24D+ has the avionics and systems of a Mi-24V but is not capable to fire the AT-6 Spiral anti-tank missile. In July 1995 the "Bakony" regiment received 14 Mi-24V’s and six Mi-24P’s from Germany as a gift. These helicopters came from the inheritance of the former NVA. As these helicopters had been in open storage for several years, they all needed an expensive overhaul before returning to flying status again as there were plans to form a third squadron with Mi-24’s.

Due to lack of funding the Mi-24V’s and Mi-24P’s were again stored, and still are. Presumably the Mi-24V’s will be used as spare part source and never fly with the Hungarian Air Force. More likely is that the more advance Mi-24P will enter service as soon as funds will come available. Since 1968 the Szállítóhelikopter-század "Borz" operates the Mi-8TB of which four are on permanent stand-by for the Hungarian SFOR detachment at Okucani in Croatia. The Veyges Szálítóhelikopter-zsázad (Mixed transport Helicopter squadron) is fitted with the older Mi-8TB’s as well as five in 1988 delivered Mi-17’s. Most remarkable of these five helicopters are the two specialized communications jammer Mi-17PP’s. This ECM version has two 32-bit (nick-named ping-pong tables by the Hungarians) antennas on the side of the fuselage. Finally a sole Mi-9 for airborne communications is operated by this mixed squadron.

At Szolnok (approx. 80 km south-east of Budapest) the 89 Vegyes Szállitórepülöezred Szolnok (89 th Szolnok Air Transport regiment) is among others responsible for peace support operations, humanitarian aid, VIP transportation, SAR operations, medical evacuation, NBC recce, transportation of tactical paratrooper units and basic training for aircraft and helicopter cadets.

To perform this variety of tasks the regiment has 4 squadrons: 1st transportsquadron (Szállítórepülöszázad) which has 7 Antonov 26’s of which 4 are serviceable. The 3rd Trainer squadron (part of the Repülö akademia) with 12 Yak-52’s. These aircraft were bought in 1994 after a period in which the Hungarian Air force considered also the Pilatus Pc-7 and the Shorts/Embrear Tucano. Due to the lack of budget the final choice was made in favor for 12 Rumanian licensed build Yak-52. Rumor has it that these 12 aircraft were just as expensive as 1 Tucano!!!!! When Ptisi magazine visited the base in April the last students were just graduating from the training squadron and it was announced that these were for the time being the last students. The 4th Trainer Helicopter Squadron (Kikčpzöhelicopter-század) performs light transport tasks and training of new helicopterpilots. The 31 Mil Mi-2 Hips of which approx. 60% is operational are used for these tasks. In reality of these 60% a large number of aircraft is in long-term storage.

The most versatile squadron at Szolnok is the 5th Transport Helicopter squadron. With its 20 Mil Mi-8t/s the most of the regiments assigned tasks are performed. A few aircraft are specially designed as VIP transport helicopters. These aircraft could be recognized by the square windows, contrary to the round windows on the normal transport helicopters. Interesting to know is that at Szolnok base 24 hours a day 365 days a year one Mil Mi-8 SAR helicopter with it’s crew is on standby, This crew contains of course a pilot, medical doctors but also 2 paratroopers. The task of the paratroopers is it to clear the landing area and to assist the pilot during landing with signals.

Last to be named is the 93 Vegyes szallito-repulo osztaly (mixed transport group at Tokol (just south of Budapest. This unit which consists of 2 AN-26 for VIP transportation and 4 Zlin-43 for Liaison duties, will however be disestablished in the near future. The existing aircraft will be moved to Szolnok (AN-26) and Kesckemet (zlin-34).

 

The MHRC is obviously an Air Force in transition between the old Pact organization to the new NATO organization and only the future will learn what will be there after the reorganization.

Please print the following in English:

The authors would like to thank the Public relations office of the Hungarian ministry of defense: Col. Tikos/Andrea Zigeti, The Hungarian Air Force Chief General Mayor Talla, The base commanders at Kesckemet, Papa, Szentkiralyszabadja and Szolnok, and their hosts for their assistance during our visit at Hungary

DMAPS (Bob den Engelsman and Martin van den Hurk)