Although Croatia is member of NATO, it still uses Russian-produced military helicopters.
Parliamentary Committee on Defence decided on Wednesday to approve the request by the Ministry of Defence to initiate public procurement procedure for overhaul of ten Mi-171Sh military helicopters. The process will take two years and it will be worth 210 million kuna, reports Index.hr on November 9, 2016.
The current operational licences for the helicopters will expire between this November and next May, said Deputy Defence Minister Tomislav Ivić. The helicopters were acquired in 2007 from Russia, as part of a settlement of Russian debt to Croatia. They are equipped with weapon systems and play an important role in the armed forces. The overhaul will take about ten month per helicopter, and that assignment will probably go to the Aeronautical Technical Centre in Velika Gorica, which in the past three years has obtained all the necessary authorizations and has developed capabilities for overhaul of a number of other types of helicopters as well. After the overhaul, the helicopters will be used for various missions and assignments, said Ivić.
Members of the Committee accepted the need for the overhaul to be done, but they asked why it was being done at the very last moment. Miro Bulj (MOST) said that everything was being done “at the last minute”, which puts Croatian Army in danger of losing the aircraft and endangering the security of the country. He also wanted to know what was being done to bring standards to NATO levels, considering that Croatia is a member of NATO but it still uses Soviet weapons.
Zdravko Ronko (SDP) agreed that the overhaul procedure had been launched too late, and that it should have been done in March at the latest. Joško Klisović (SDP) said there was no danger since this was a routine maintenance procedure, and that the real attitude towards the armed forces would be seen in the next year’s budget for the Department of Defence.
“The readiness of the armed forces will not be compromised, since these are not the only helicopters we have. In December, we will receive the remaining Kiowa Warrior helicopters from the United States”, responded Ivić, adding that the overhaul could begin “tomorrow”. He also explained that Croatia was not the only NATO member which is using weapons from the former Soviet Union, and that the change in equipment will require time and money. He agreed that the issue of defence budget was crucial because with current budgetary funds it was not possible even to think about buying new weapons and technology.