June 28, 2014:
It was recently revealed that Serbia had no combat aircraft available for duty, mainly because money had not been spent by the Defense Ministry to buy batteries for the aircraft. Serbia doesn’t have much of an air force to begin with (26 MiG-21s, four MiG-29s and 18 J-22s) and the cost of maintenance has been a struggle keep up with. The air force insists that three MiG-21s and three MiG-29s are available for service but no one has seen any of them flying lately. Some of the older aircraft have been out of action for so long that it will take a major refurbishment to get them back into the air. Most of the non-combat aircraft are also grounded because of maintenance problems also related to an unresponsive procurement bureaucracy.
The battery situation makes it clear that the Defense Ministry procurement bureaucracy is the biggest problem. In addition to being slow in responding to air force requests for the batteries (costing a few thousand dollars per plane) the procurement bureaucrats have a torturous and lengthy process for ordering equipment. Worse, when it comes to spare parts and maintenance supplies the procurement bureaucrats do not take into account how the delays will impact equipment readiness.
Normally all this stuff is classified as “state secrets” but word on the battery fiasco got out. It’s more likely there will be an investigation to find and prosecute the “spy” who made this item public rather than speed up the procurement process. The air force is still waiting for their batteries.