Croatia Buying New Fighter Aircraft

Total Croatia News

The first aircraft should arrive in the summer of 2020.

In mid-July this year, the Ministry of Defence will send a letter to four countries stating that Croatia is interested in buying their combat aircraft and seeking their offers. The request will be sent to Sweden (Gripen JAS-39), USA (F-16), South Korea (FA-50) and Israel (F-16 Barak), reports Večernji List on June 27, 2017.

The Ministry believes that offers could be received within the next two months, meaning by mid-September. They would then be evaluated by the Ministry’s teams. If everything goes smoothly, in October or November, everything should be ready for the final decision to be made on aircraft which would gradually replace old MiGs 21.

The plans are being pushed forward by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević. Some say they are too ambitious since previous Croatian governments have repeatedly prolonged the process. But, Krstičević’s persistence should not be underestimated, and he is convinced that this process should proceed ambitiously. The Ministry will insist that the procurement process should be completed by a contract between the two countries, which would significantly reduce the possibility of corruption.

The Ministry expects that the contract with the aircraft producer would be signed in 2018 and that the first few aircraft would arrive in the summer of 2020. The plan is to immediately negotiate the training of 40-50 Croatian technicians and about a dozen pilots in the first phase. They would then train other pilots and technicians. According to this plan, in 2021 and 2022 Croatia would have a squadron operational for the basic needs of air-policing.

But the Ministry’s plan is far more ambitious than air-policing because it wants to have combat units that will be able to protect the airspace and territory of Croatia, with the possibility of launching attack operations over enemy territory. This means that Croatia will ask the supplying country for the so-called “total package,” so the planes have all these options. Of course, bringing pilots and technicians to these level of skills will require years of training.

As far as the aircraft model is concerned, it is realistic that the finalists will be the JAS-39 Gripen, which the Swedes have been offering for the last ten years and F-16s which have been upgraded in Israel.

There will be a lot of discussion about the disadvantages and benefits of buying new Gripens, which are twice as expensive, and 20 to 30 years old Israeli aircraft, which have been proven in wars and come with the technical support of Israel. Of course, for the transfer of F-16s, the United States would also have to issue their approval.

The agreement must at the same time solve the necessary infrastructural interventions on runways, hangars and equipment. As for the price, a Gripen would probably cost around 70 million euros, while used F-16s can be bought for between 20 and 30 million dollars per plane.


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