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.
The Indian Air Force will retire three more squadrons of 18 aircraft each this year. The units are equipped with either the aging Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 or the MiG-27, defence sources told media in India.
Meanwhile the top brass is hoping to quickly field another unit of Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role fighters, while the strength is going down quickly. With a wished-for strength of 42 squadrons, the Indian Air Force might go down to 32 or 33 in 2015.
Hopes are high for the indigenous developed Tejas, but the light combat jet is not expected before 2019. In the mean time the Indian Air Force needs to do what it can to fulfill its tasks with an aging fleet.
The government of Bulgaria is dodging its NATO commitment in providing the military alliance and itself the necessary modern air assets. With the Southeast European country’s finances still in bad shape, there will be no funds made available for a new multi-role aircraft for years to come.
2016. That’s the year that the Bulgarian Air Force (Военновъздушни сили) promised NATO it would not only have its MiG-29s modernised, it would also have eight modern multi-role fighters up and running, saying goodbye to the beautiful but ancient six remaining MiG-21bis/UM planes its air force’s 1st Fighter Squadron at Graf Ignatievo Airbase is flying now.
But as Prime Minister Boiko Borissov said during a parliamentary meeting this week, the Ministry of Defence’s request to modernise has been denied. In short: the four modern combat aircraft available to international operations won’t be there as promised and neither will be the second quartet to defend Bulgaria. Unless the leadership in Sofia makes a 180 degree turn, it will break the promises made when Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004.
Insiders saw a big opportunity for the relatively affordable lease of the easy to maintain Swedish-made SAAB JAS 39C/D Gripen jets, like Hungary, the Czech Republic and soon Slovakia have arranged. Or for second-hand American-made General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/D Fighting Falcons, like Bulgaria’s northern neighbour Romania choose to do.
Bulgaria will rely on its modernised, but somewhat outdated and often not fully operational 12 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29S and 3 MiG-29UB (NATO-name Fulcrum) air-defence fighters of 2nd Fighter Squadron at Graf Ignatievo to keep the country safe from an ever increasing Russian military machine just an hour away. About 250 (410 km) from Bulgaria’s shores is Russia’s “new” Belbek Airbase at the Crimea peninsula, Russian forces took from Ukraine in February and March 2014. In November Moscow moved 10 very modern Sukhoi Su-27SM and 4 Su-30s to Belbek, promising there will be 24 of these ultra-modern Flankers by the end of the year.
Meanwhile Bulgarian MiG-21 pilots will play a B-role, while the new nine F-16 pilots of the Romanian Air Force (Forţele Aeriene Române) as well as fighter jocks of Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri) F-16s and F-4s might have to aid in the air-defence of their cash-short neighbour. To make matters worse: as the war in eastern Ukraine has shown Bulgaria’s remaining “Frogfoot” force of 10 Sukhoi Su-25Ks 4 Su-25UBKs flying with the 1st Ground Attack Squadron at Bezmer Airbase will be no match for the standard portable air-defence systems that Russia deploys these days.
LATEST UPDATE 8 AUGUST 2014 | Croatian Air Force and Air Defence Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 (NATO-reporting name Fishbed) with number 121 crashed on Tuesday 5 August around 14:47 Zagreb time (13:47 UTC) in the area of Donja Lomnica near Velika Gorica. A picture of the aircraft airborne and on fire is here. More pics are also on Facebook.
The aircraft was returning from an overflight mission of Knin with three other MiG-21s to commemorate the 5 – 7 August 1995 successful retake of the Krajina region (Operation Storm). The pilot of the crashed MiG ejected safely and has been transported to the hospital for a routine medical examination.
The Mikoyan-Gurevich Fishbed that crashed was not one of the planes that recently came back from Ukraine for overhaul. According to the Croatian Ministry of Defence the plane suffered both a failure in the engine as well as the landing gear and hydraulics. It went down in an uninhabited area.
With no. 121 lost the country now apparently has momentarily only a quartet of Fishbeds ready for duty, several sources say, with overhauled MiG-21s slowly returning from the maintenance plant in Ukraine to make it back to active flight status. The MiG-21s are Croatia’s only front-line fighters, with the current four aircraft, their pilots and technicians bearing the full responsibility for the air defence of the Balkan NATO member state on their shoulders.
Source: MORH with additional reporting by Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Modernised Croatian Air Force (Hrvatsko ratno zrakoplovstvo i protuzračna obrana) MiG-21 BIS fighters are slowly being returned to full operational status. Of the seven aircraft that have made it back to Zagreb-Pleso Airbase from the overhaul factory in Odesa, Ukraine, two have been returned to full active status, with the nicely painted third getting there this week.
The grey-painted aircraft with numbers 131 and 131 are again up in the air making almost daily flights as part of NATO’s air surveillance and defence system and to protect the territory of the Republic of Croatia.
The traditionally in red-white checkers scheme painted MiG-21 UMD two-seater finished its final flight tests on 25 July 2014, and will be handed officially handed over to the Air Force in the last week of July. In total Croatia conduced 38 test flights with the refurbished MiG-21s so far.