Future of Croatian Air Force In Question Due to Lack of Funds

Total Croatia News

The future of Croatia’s air force is under discussion. 

Government and military leaders should make a decision this year about the fate of the Croatian Air Force combat aircraft. In April last year, the National Defence Council decided to retain combat air force capabilities and acquire Western-type aircraft. However, in the meantime, the government and military leadership have reportedly changed their minds. Several of the senior military and civilian officials have unofficially confirmed that, due to the financial and economic situation, Croatia would not be able to buy new or used aircraft. Although no one was ready to say it publicly, the facts are clear, reports Jutarnji List on January 14, 2016.

“I do not see any possibility for that. A squadron of new Swedish fighter jets Gripen would cost us 800 million kuna per year, or 8 billion kuna over a period of ten years. It is clear that Croatia does not have the money. In that case, we would have to reduce pensions and health spending. I am not sure that any government would be ready for that”, said one source. When it comes to purchasing used aircraft, there was an option of F16s being acquired from Portugal or Israel. However, that would need a permission of the United States. “I do not think that Americans would approve it. They have always been against our wish to have combat aircraft”, revealed a source from the military leadership. The message is quite clear. The United States will not in any way assist Croatia in this project.

Croatian Air Force currently has 12 refurbished MiG-21 aircraft, which are only capable of conducting air surveillance, while any combat operations are impossible. Officially, they can be used until 2024, but that is not realistic. Croatia should arrange the purchase of new aircraft as early as next year, since it takes about five years for the introduction of new aircraft in the military system. “I am pretty sure this will not happen”, said the source.

The military leadership believes that Croatia should develop its helicopter squadrons instead. Army now has 24 transport helicopters. By 2020, Croatia should arrange to buy 8 to 10 US Blackhawk helicopters. With another 16 Kiowa helicopters, Croatia would become a regional helicopter force, while the protection of the airspace would require purchase of an anti-aircraft system with medium-range missiles. One of the options would be the Patriot air defence system. Existing air radar systems FPS 117 have recently been upgraded and they are now capable of sharing radar images with the Patriot system. This means that technical preconditions exist for the deployment of this system in Croatia.

Ministry of Defence reacted to the latest rumours. “There has been no decision made which could be interpreted as the abolition of the Air Force combat capabilities. It is important to stress that the Long Term Development Plan provides for the decision on the future of combat aircraft to be made by the end of 2016. Therefore, the decision has not and could not have been made. The position of the Ministry is that Croatia needs to maintain its combat aircraft capabilities. However, as noted earlier, the question shall be decided by national consensus and will include many other stakeholders other than the Ministry of Defence.”


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