UPDATED 19 April 2016 | In an interesting turn of events Ukraine has now said it would love to buy the 12 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbeds back that were recently refurbished and modernized in Odesa, Ukraine.
Update 19 April | Sources in Croatia now claim that several MiG-21s delivered by Ukraine are not the same aircraft Croatia thought it purchased earlier. Identification plates apparently show the aircraft to be five years older than the jets originally offered by Kiev.
The move from Kiev comes after Croatian radio reported an investigation into the finances behind the deal of 14 million euros. Some say fraud and bribing took place, since the Ukrainian offer was 5 million euros cheaper than of the cheapest other bidder.
“We are at war, so it is good to have great aircraft,” an Ukrainian official was quoted referring to the conflict in the east of the country with pro-Russian rebel forces supported by the regular Russian military.
Sending back the MiG-21s seems no option for Croatia however. The dozen Fishbeds flying from Zagreb/Pleso Airbase are the only fast combat asset the Balkan country has and are essential. Not only for the country’s air defence and combat air support to ground forces, but also to fulfill commitments to NATO of which Croatia has been a member since 2009.
Croatia is on course to receive 16 former US OH-58D Kiowa recce and light attack helicopters, with first deliveries due later this year. Inspection of the helicopters took place last month in Fort Bragg (North Carolina) and Redstone Arsenal (Alabama). The US will donate the helos to Croatia, with a formal agreement to be signed soon.
Airheadsfly.com reported on the Croation Kiowas last year already. A Croatian team inspected the choppers and their documentation, plus examined and selected training simulators to be used for pilot training. Maintenance details and other conditions for operational use by the Croatian Armed Forces were also discussed with US experts, as well as transportation of the Kiowas to Croatia.
As many as 14 of 16 selected helicopters are still in operational use with the US Army and will be taken over in well-maintained condition. The helicopters were manufactured in the period 2012-2015 and each have between 100 and 600 flying hours.
The Kiowas are capable of carrying machine guns, Hellfire missiles, air-to-air Stinger (ATAS) missile and 2.75″ Folding Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR). Also, the helicopters are fitted with passive protection for the crew and the vital parts of the helicopter, plus provisions for active counter-measures against threats.
Sweden responded to a re-established request by the Government of Croatia on the possible purchase or lease of the SAAB JAS 39 C/D Gripen multi-role fighter.
According to the Swedish Defence Export Authority (Försvarsexportmyndigheten; FXM) information was sent on Friday 23 October regarding the purchase of 8 to 12 new-to-build aircraft.
It is the latest development in talks that go back all the way to 2007, when Croatia started to look for a future replacement for its aging but recently in Ukraine modernized Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 “Fishbed” fighters. Earlier Croatia seemed to be interested in leasing Swedish Air Force Gripens, but partly because those aircraft are in high demand Zagreb now seems to be willing to look at new aircraft instead.
Meanwhile a group of 150 Brazilian engineers arrived at the SAAB plant in Linköping last week, starting their training in building and maintaining the newer Gripen E/F model of which the Força Aérea Brasileira is purchasing at least 36 units, while leasing possible 12 to 16 aircraft until the bigger and more capable Gripen E/F is ready. Talks with Slovakia on the lease of the Gripen C/D are also still underway.
The C/D model of the Gripen already flies with the air forces of Sweden, the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa and Thailand.
The Croatian Air Force and Air Defence (Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo i Protuzračna Obrana) is very happy with their Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Bosses. By enrolling them into active patrols of fire risky areas they have proven to prevent worse.
An illustration of the effectiveness of the new working method – let the Air Tractors patrol with the heavier Canadair CL-415s on stand-by – presented itself on 3 August 2015. Scouting the area around Omis in the Split-Dalmatia area an Air Tractor pilot located a starting fire, started engaging it and requested immediate reinforcements which came in the form of two Canadairs. Moreover, a Croatian Air Force Mi-8MTV flew additional fire crews into the area.
In order to react faster the Croatians have put a single Canadair on stand-by in Dubrovnik since 22 July 2015, to help fighting fighters in the south of the country.
During the last five days the Air Tractors flew 13 patrol missions, locating nine wild fires. The Croatian Air Force began their own fire-fighting training in December 2014, at the 93. Air Force and Air Defence Base in Zemunik on a single Air Tractor AT-802 Fire Boss two-seater. Before that Spain provided the training.
The Fire Squadron (PPE) of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence has a total of six Canadair CL-415s and 6 Air Tractor AT-802Fs (5 single-seaters, 1 two-seat).
The Croatian Air Force this week celebrated the return of its MiG-21 Fishbed fleet to full strength following a major overhaul and upgrade program in Ukraine. The final aircraft was delivered on 16 July. Croatia now operates a total of twelve MiG-21s
The modernization program started two years ago with the signing of a contract worth 17.5 million EUR. It involved the overhaul and upgrade of seven Croatian MiG-21s and the purchase of five Ukrainian MiGs. The war in eastern Ukraine caused delays in the program, setting back last week’s final delivery by close to a year.
All Croatian MiG-21s were on show this week during a combined ceremony, exercise and airshow at Pleso airbase outside the Croatian capital of Zagreb.