Decision on the future of the Air Force will have to be made soon.
Operational capabilities of the Croatian Air Force have declined to dramatic level. From a total of 12 MiG-21 aircraft, only four are able to perform operational tasks – one single-seater and three-seaters, reported a few days ago Chief of General Staff Milan Šundov to President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, who is also the nominal commander-in-chief, reports Jutarnji List on March 15, 2017.
President recently publicly asked for a more detailed investigation into the procurement and overhaul process for MiGs. The biggest problems are defects that appear almost daily on planes which have been overhauled in Ukraine. General Šundov warned the president that since July 2015, when the 12 aircraft refurbished in Ukraine were returned to the Air Force, the aircraft recorded a total of 300 failures. The most common failures are with hydraulics systems, navigation and communication equipment, and with fuel and oil leaks. In addition, on two occasions an engine stopped working in the middle of a flight.
According to sources, Croatia is still able to control its airspace, but the question is for how long. In any case, the Air Force is not operationally ready to perform all the tasks set before it. “This is a nightmare. Not only is national security endangered, but this also brings into question the safety of our pilots”, said a source familiar with the situation. Therefore, the authorities are already considering a backup option – an agreement with a NATO member that would, if necessary, control Croatian airspace.
Given the state of combat aircraft, civilian and military leaders must soon decide on the fate of Croatian Air Force. The expert committee has recently submitted its conclusion to the Defence Minister that Croatia needed to maintain the combat aircraft component of the Air Force and purchase a squadron of aircraft. Now it is up to the government and the President to make their decision, which should happen by the end of the year. At this moment, it is almost impossible to know what the final decision will be. Chief of General Staff informed the President about the situation, while Defence Minister Krstičević will inform Prime Minister Plenković. While it is possible that a session of Defence Council will be called by President and Prime Minister, the final decision will in any case have to be made by government and Parliament, since they are the ones who propose and adopt budgets and would have to appropriate funds for purchase of any new aircraft.
In the meanwhile, according to sources, military police are still investigating the overhaul of aircraft in Ukraine. They submitted a report to the Defence Minister about a number of suspicious actions during the process, and the State Attorney’s Office and the Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime are trying to find out what happened with the overhaul which was paid 132 million kuna.
Due to giving and receiving bribes in the amount of 10,000 euros, the Zagreb County Court recently confirmed indictments against a member of the technical committee of the Defence Ministry Major Ivan Čović, and against Ivica Josipović, a representative of the Ukrainian company which was an intermediary in the overhaul.