President and Military Leaders Discuss the Future of Croatian Army

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President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović met with Defence Minister Krstičević and military leadership.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović held a meeting with Defence Minister Damir Krstičević and military leadership. The public has been informed about the meeting with just a short statement on the President’s official website, without any details mentioned, reports on November 1, 2016.

According to reports, one of the issues discussed during the meeting was the future of the Croatian Air Force and the need to achieve independence from eastern technologies as a strategic priority. In other words, the participants discussed whether the current Croatian MiG-21 fighter jets should be replaced with others types of aircraft or whether Croatia should abolish its air force and make a deal with one of other NATO partners to protect its skies. Another subject was how to substitute weapons of Russian origin with those of western type.

When it comes to achieving independence from so-called eastern technologies, it should be noted that such technologies are almost exclusively present in the Air Force, both with MiG-21 fighter jets and with Mi-8 transport helicopters and their modern versions Mi-171. Other branches of the Armed Forces, particularly infantry, are mostly equipped with western weapons and equipment.

The debate about procurement of new combat aircraft has been ongoing for the last 15 years and, according to available information, the most likely outcome is one version of the F-16 aircraft (American or Israeli), if Croatia opts for procurement of cheaper second-hand aircraft. The other possibility is Swedish JAS 39 Gripen, if it decides to buy new or newer second-hand aircraft, which would be more expensive. However, that would require the announcement of a public tender, which is not even close at this moment.

The overhaul of MiGs in Ukraine, which extended the service of these planes until 2024, has given Croatia more time to make the final decision, but it will certainly have to be made in the next few years. The statement does not mention whether the President spoke with military leadership about the problems with the overhaul of MiGs in Ukraine.

Given the fact that there is great interest for the future of Air Force not only among experts and the military, but also among ordinary citizens, regardless of whether they advocate for the acquisition of new aircraft or abolition of the Air Force, it remains unclear why the participants of the meeting did not give any statements afterwards or at least published what conclusions had been reached.

Participants particularly emphasized the need to increase the defence budget which has been reduced for years and is regularly among the first to be cut. Without increasing defence expenditures, of course in accordance with the possibilities of the treasury, the modernization of the armed forces will not be possible, which could influence the participation in achieving the objectives with regards to NATO, which Croatia has accepted.


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