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Russian, Serbian warplanes commence joint military drills in Serbia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows a pair of MiG-29 fighter jets. (TASS)

Russian and Serbian military aircraft have commenced week-long joint exercises in Serbia, the Russian Defense Ministry says.  

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said pilots from both countries had kicked off (Brotherhood of Aviators of Russia and Serbia) BARS-2021 joint tactical drills earlier in the day.

“In the course of the drills, the flight personnel of both countries will practice combat maneuvering and a dogfight by pairs of aircraft, attacks by MiG-29 fighters against low-speed targets, airborne assault operations and the evacuation of those in distress, aerobatic maneuvers, combat employment and other designated tasks flying Mi-8 and Mi-35 helicopters,” TASS quoted the statement by the ministry as saying.

MiG-29 fighters and helicopters of the Serbian Air Force were involved in the exercises, which, since 2015, have been held annually and alternately on the territory of the two countries.

“The maneuvers will involve about 10 aircraft of the Serbian Air Force and Air Defense Troops from the Batajnica and Ladevci military airfields,” the Russian Defense Ministry further said, noting that the drills have brought together joint crews from both countries.

The drills will last through October 16, the ministry specified, adding that Russian pilots were preliminarily trained in aviation terminology and phraseology of radio exchange in the Serbian language.

On September 27, TASS quoted an unnamed military source as saying that BARS-2021 would involve the Pantsir-S air defense systems that would arrive from Russia.

The joint drills will also involve artillery air defense systems, as well as the Neva-M1T and Kub-M systems of the Serbian Armed Forces, the source added at the time.

In mid-September, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said Belgrade had procured the upgraded Pantsir-S1M system. “The new Pantsir is 5,000 30-mm rounds per minute. This can mow down mountains,” he noted.

During BARS-2019, Moscow employed the S-400 air defense system beyond Russia’s border for the first time.

According to Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin, the two countries held 96 joint military exercises in 2019.

Last month, Russia held large-scale military exercises with Belarus amid increased NATO activity near Russia’s borders.

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