Croatia ‘punished’ the US and bought used French fighters

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ZAGREB, (BM) – The modernization of the Croatian Air Force is about to enter a new phase after the government today voted to spend $ 1.2 billion for used French fighters Rafale F3-R. In a tender that lasted more than a year, the United States participated with a proposal for new F-16 Blocks 70/72, the Swedes with their JAS-39 Gripen C / D, and Israel with a proposal for a second-hand F-16.

In the end, Zagreb did not want new fighters but used ones. According to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, the 12 used Rafales will prove Croatia’s efforts to modernize its air force and “get rid” of the obsolete Russian MiG-21. For the first time, we will reach 2 percent of the GDP allocated to strengthening our defense capabilities,” Plenković said, as quoted in a statement issued by his government.

The French will have to provide weapons systems, spare parts, logistics, and training – all this is including in the budget. Negotiations between Zagreb and Paris expect to continue, but the conditions for acquiring the used Rafal are already being negotiated.

Zagreb will expect the first six fighters in three years. In reality, this period is too long to deliver used fighters. The other six France promises to deliver in 2025. The deal includes ten single-seat and two double-seat fighters.

The scandal

Croatia chose a fighter in 2018, and it was the Israeli F-16 Barak. Although these fighters were also second-hand, the Israelis offered a deep modernization of weapons systems and avionics.

However, the United States was disappointed with the Croats’ choice, believing they would choose a new F-16 Block 70/72. After seeing where things were going, Washington decided to ban Israel from reselling the F-16 Barak (in the arms business, only one who holds a license for a weapon can allow its resale).

Thus, there has been a mutual accusation of unfair competition between Israel and the United States in recent years. At one point, politicians in Zagreb intervened and were divided – some offering to buy new F-16s from the United States immediately, others claiming that this was unfair competition, and insisting on a new auction, as it happened.

The choice of the French Rafal, who are second-hand, may turn out to be a “yellow card” against the United States. Zagreb has shown that it would not accept pressure from a third party, and by choosing, Rafal guarantees itself the right to free choice in the future by selecting the more expensive offer – that of the French.

($1=6,16 kunas)

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