Hungary will join the Czech Republic and Poland in patrolling Slovakia's skies after it grounded its Soviet-made MiG-29s from service last year, Slovak Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad said on Friday.

Slovakia has relied on its neighbours for airspace protection since last September while it waits for new, U.S.-made F-16 fighters due in 2024.

"We confirmed the interest of the Hungarian side, and Slovakia's gratitude, that it will join in protecting Slovakia's airspace," Nad said in a news conference with his Hungarian counterpart Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, shown on his Facebook page.

Slovakia grounded the ageing MiGs as it embarked on a modernisation programme. It has considered sending them to Ukraine as it battles Russia's invasion but has not made a decision.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague; Editing by Angus MacSwan)