Czech government backs plan to help protect Slovakia's air space

PRAGUE, July 27 (Reuters) - The Czech government has backed allowing its fighter jets to protect neighbouring Slovakia's air space from September, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

Slovakia has sought help from its NATO allies as it looks to ground its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets in August under long-standing plans to modernise the military.

Slovak government officials have said the old jets could be sent to neighbouring Ukraine to help Kyiv defend itself against Russia's invasion.

From September, the Czech army's Gripen JAS-39 fighter jets will provide air policing for Slovakia until at least the end of 2023, the Czech Defence Ministry said. Poland is also expected to take part, it said.

More details will come as part of a joint declaration from the countries to be signed in the near future.

Slovakia borders Ukraine in the east and has been an entry point for refugees fleeing fighting during the five-month war. Bratislava has also backed Kyiv with weapons and other aid, and NATO is boosting its presence in Slovakia.

The Slovak government ordered F-16 fighter jets from the United States in 2018 to replace the ageing MiG-29 planes.

The first U.S.-made planes were expected to arrive this year and the shipment to be completed in the next year, but the delivery is now expected to take place in 2024.

Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by John Stonestreet and Alison Williams

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