In the procurement process for its new fighter jets, Croatia is looking for a strategic partner that would provide operational experience, as well as experience in aircraft maintenance andlogistics, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević told reporters on Wednesday.
“We are about to switch from second-generation to fourth-generation aircraft,” Krstičević told reporters before a meeting on cooperation between the Croatian and Romanian defence industries in Zagreb, which was also attended by his Romanian counterpart, Mihai Fifor.
New fighter jet step forward in technology
But in procuring new fighter jets, Croatia also wants a strategic partner who would invest in the Croatian economy and create jobs, said Krstičević, noting that this would be a major step forward in terms of technology for the armed forces, which would help it gain knowledge, technology and young experts.
Asked if media reports that Croatia would buy used F-16 jets from Israel are true, Krstičević said that the Defence Council – a body which coordinates defence matters – would hold a session on Tuesday evening in which the decision on the purchase of multi-purpose fighter jets would be made.
Asked if the entire process could have been more transparent and if he feared lawsuits by those who would lose the tender, Krsticevic said that the process had been going on for a year, and that offers had been submitted by “top countries with top products.”
Reporters also wanted to know if consultations with his Romanian counterpart on the F-16 jet had reinforced his confidence that it was the type of aircraft Croatia needs. Romania operates 12 F-16 jets made in the 1980s, which it bought used from Portugal in 2016.
Krstičević said that during the year-long process Croatia had consulted Romania and the Czech Republic, but also Hungary, which conveyed to Croatia its experience with Gripen planes. Hungary operates 12 Gripen aircraft on long-term lease.
“A team of experts looked at all the parameters to make a realistic decision. We must take into account the cost of this (procurement), in light of all other challenges facing Croatia like education system, health care, agriculture… These are all key parameters we must take into account,” Krstičević said.
Romanian Defence Minister, Mihai Fifor, said that the Romanian armed forces are pleased with their used F-16s and added that they plan to buy another 36 jets. The planes were upgraded by the Romanian company Aerostar, Fifor said, adding that this was the best choice they had.
Romania interested in Croatian rifle
Krstičević and Fifor also discussed ways of improving the two countries’ defence cooperation, with Krstičević telling reporters Romania is interested in buying Croatian-made rifles produced by HS Produkt.
He said Romania and Croatia are working on establishing cooperation in the sale of Croatian-made weapons.
“We are trying to build cooperation in sales of weapons made in Croatia. We will test the weapons, and if they prove to be good for the Romanian army, we will start talks on transfer of technology and industrial cooperation, because this weapon should be produced in Romania,” said Fifor.