Combat Aircraft Acquisition Delayed

Total Croatia News

The final decision was supposed to be made by the end of last year.

The Croatian government has not yet made a decision on the selection of a multi-purpose combat aircraft, although it was announced the decision would be made by the end of 2017. It seems that the decision-making process has been halted and it is not clear when it could be restarted, reports Večernji List on January 7, 2018.

There is speculation that the coming together of the National Defence Council will not be in the next month or two. The Council is jointly convened by the Prime Minister and the President, and its decision should then just be confirmed by the government. Since the whole project, from the preparation and publication of the tender to the opening and analysing the bids ran smoothly so far, optimists were sure that the acquisition would be completed by the end of 2017.

The level of optimism grew after on 14 December, when the Ministry of Defence’s recommendation passed the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, where both the ruling parties and the opposition agreed on the decision. But, realists warned that complications could still arise. The fact that there was a problem became clear a week later, when Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he wanted to analyse all the bids received once again.

“We still want to review the bids with the competent ministry thoroughly. I’d like to thank the Minister of Defence and his team for conducting the process of negotiations with those countries which have sent their offers,” said Plenković.

His statement caused surprise among military analysts. Rumours appeared that “one of the bidders realised that its bid was not the best and would try to improve it.” It is said that the bidder is Swedish SAAB, which offered JAS 39 Gripens. They told Croatian journalists unofficially that they hadn’t given up, although they had also heard rumours that the recommendation was that the government should buy used Israeli F-16s instead.

However, their only remaining option for “improving” the bid is if the Croatian government, regardless of the fact that the tender has been formally concluded, were to decide to submit a request for the so-called best and final offer. If the Croatian government were to choose to do so, it would have to offer the same opportunity to all of the other bidders as well.

A few days ago, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with a delegation from Sweden, which included the SAAB leadership and representatives of the Swedish state-owned company for arms export. Although it has not been announced what they discussed, it is hard to believe they did not mention the combat aircraft.

Some say that Plenković is delaying the decision just because that is his style or because he’s worried how the public will react to the fact that billions of kuna are being spent on military aircraft and not on the construction of kindergartens and similar more popular initiatives.


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