Croatian Fighter Jet Saga Continues, Decision Coming Soon?

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the announcement of the Croatian Government about who the winner of the tender for the procurement of a multi-role fighter aircraft is has been postponed once again. However, as has been circulating, this is short-term and there is no mention that the recently completed tender could fail, according to a report from Vecernji list.

On the eve of the vote in Parliament on the law on reconstruction of earthquake-affected areas, Plenkovic stated that the government would wait with their decision on a new combat squadron for the Croatian Air Force, and this postponement raised yet more new doubts which have plagued the Croatian fighter jet story from the very beginning.

Although there is no official position on the dates from the Croatian Government, and especially not in the Ministry of Defense, which believes that it is up to the Prime Minister to explain how long the delay will be, it can be heard that the expectation is that the decision to purchase the aircraft will finally be published between the first and second quarters of the year, ie in March or at the beginning of April this year at the very latest. Therefore, Croatia still hasn’t given up on procuring a new squadron.

In the meantime, it became clear that the Government Commission had sent Plenkovic a recommendation of sorts on the choice, and that it was quite certain that there were two planes in the game. In the new category, the American F-16 block 70/72 won, and in the used category came the French Rafale F3-R.

This goes hand in hand with estimates that there will be a rift between these two favourites, with the elimination of the used Israeli F-16 sand the new Swedish JAS Gripen C / D. Sensing a delay due to the earthquake, a story was released into circulation that the Swedes, because they believe that the “tender was rigged”, are going with a new, low offer, cheaper than 900 million euros for the entire squadron. There are, however, many questions surrounding that story.

The decision to choose a Croatian fighter jet will be and is primarily a political decision. This worries the Americans because they understand that it is very important for Croatia to find a strong political foothold in the EU and France is, in the military sense, the strongest EU country. As far as the Croatian Air Force is concerned, the dilemma between the F-16 and the Rafal creates concerns because these are extremely powerful aircraft whose purchase they could only dream of until quite recently. Procurement comes with a hefty price tag, from about 930 million euros for the Rafale to 1.6 billion US dollars for the new F-16s.

The damage from the two earthquakes, from the financially more devastating one in Zagreb back in March 2020 to the emotionally destroying one in December in Banovina, which produced a sea of ​​homeless people, together amounts to 11 to 12 billion euros, ten times more than the cost of a combat squadron.

The Croatian Government will have to explain whether or not Croatia as a country can financially withstand all this, even if long-term repayment is involved. President Zoran Milanovic has said before that a “real” state must be able to do the above.

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