MILMAG Defence & Space 02/2020 »

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Croatia considers new fighter jet

Croatian Ministry of Defence (MoD) turns its eye to Sweden and U.S. when looking for new options for acquiring modern fighter jets, as apparently it has definitely given up the idea of purchasing second hand, ex-Israeli F-16s.

Croatian Air Force operates a dozen of MiG-21bisD/UMD fighter jets, which underwent a modernization in recent years. However, due to their worsening technical condition and legacy of its onboard equipment, these platforms present rather a symbolic combat capacity / Picture: Croatian MoD

According to Croatian Minister of Defence, Damir Krstičević, the Balkan country is seriously considering acquisition of Swedish Saab Gripen fighter jets to modernize its Air Force inventory, which currently is composed of a series of legacy, Soviet-era MiG-21bisD/UMD fighters. However, at this stage, it’s not yet clear, if Zagreb would prefer to purchase brand new fighters or rather decide to continue with a cheaper, second-hand option.

The decision to turn its eye to Sweden has been taken by the Croatian MoD, as it had failed to finalize the deal for procurement of a series of F-16 fighter jets from Israel. Although the Middle Eastern country was keen on selling a number of its most legacy F-16s, mostly due to the fact that its own Air Force has recently started operating the newly acquired 5th generation F-35 Lightning II jets, it was unable to get the final approval from Washington to conclude negotiations with Croatia, a crucial requirement for reaching the final agreement.

U.S. government’s reluctance to approve the purchase of ex-Israeli F-16s by Croatia might be due to the fact that Washington would very much look forward to selling its own second-hand fighter jets to the Balkan country, which for many years has been a crucial NATO ally. According to several media reports, Zagreb has already been approached by U.S. officials on this matter and it’s not hard to imagine that Croatian MoD would at least consider accepting the American offer, as a symbol of strengthening relations with one of its closest allies.

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