Four offers for the new Croatian multirole fighter | Defence Database
Four offers for the new Croatian multirole fighter
Posted by: Andrei Dcs on 2020-10-11 10:55:58

Croatia has received four bids in its program to purchase a new multi-role aircraft for the Croatian Air Force.

Zagreb has been trying for several years to buy the new fighter jets it urgently needs in order to replace the old MiG-21s whose flight resource is running out.

The Croatian Ministry of Defense has received four offers for three types of new or used aircrafts.

The offers submitted to the Croats came from four bidders, as follows:

- France offers Rafale F3R manufactured by Dassault Aviation
- USA offers F-16 Block 70/72 manufactured by Lockheed Martin
- Israel offers F-16C/D Barak
- Sweden offers JAS 39C/D Gripen manufactured by Saab

Picture Author: / Wikimedia Source: [link] / Main Source: [link]

This is not the first attempt by Croats to buy new multi-role aircrafts.

A previous auction ended in 2018 in which the Israelis were declared winners, was canceled under pressure from the United States.

The Croats were very close to sign a contract with Israel for the delivery of 12 F-16C/D Barak fighter jets, but Croatia was forced to cancel the transaction following US objections.

The United States opposed the deal because F-16 Barak aircrafts were upgraded with Israeli avionics, and to get the United States approval, had Israel to remove its home-developed avionics.

The agreement between Croatia and Israel was eventually canceled, with Croatia having to resume the process of acquiring new fighter jets.

France offers the high-performance Dassault Rafale twin-engine fighter jet

The French offer includes 12 used Rafale C/B F3R multirole aircrafts currently in the service with the French Air Force.

This could be an advantage for the Croats because the purchase price would be lower than that of new aircrafts.

a french dassault rafale fighter aircraft in flight
A French Dassaut Rafale fighter aircraft in flight
Pic author: Infilight / Source: Wikimedia Commons / License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

In recent years, Dassault has had great success with Rafale on the foreign market, the French omnirole fighter being purchased by the Egyptians, Indians, Greeks and Qataris.

Greece recently opted for 18 Rafale F3R aircrafts, the same configuration offered by the French to Croats. Of the total 18 jets ordered by Greece, six will be newly built and 12 would be second-hand aircraft from French inventory.

The package for the 12 Rafale fighters from Croatia is estimated at one billion euros and the cost per flight hour amounts between 16,000 and 19,000 euros.

By choosing Rafale, Croatia will strengthen its ties with France which remained the only nuclear power and the biggest military power in the European Union after the United Kingdom left the EU community.

Lockheed Martin, the largest American weapons manufacturer, offers the Croats the latest version of the famous Fighting Falcon, F-16V Block 70/72

The Americans proposed to the Croats the new F-16V Block 70/72 multirole fighter.

This is the latest version of the famous American fighter aircraft, which has an AESA AN/APG-83 SABR radar.

In addition to the state-of-the-art AESA radar, the F-16 Block 70 also uses other technologies developed for the fifth-generation F-35 Lighting II aircraft.

lockheed martin rendering of the f-16v block 70 multirole fighter
Lockheed Martin rendering of the F-16V Block 70 multirole fighter
Pic author: Lockheed Martin / Source:

The F-16V Block 70/72 has already been ordered by the Slovaks and Bulgarians.

Slovakia has acquired 14 F-16V aircrafts while Bulgaria has acquired only eight in a first phase, and plans to purchase another eight to eventually operate an F-16 Block 70/72 squadron of 16.

Although the American offer seems to be favored due to the influence of the United States, which is the most important guarantee of the security of the new NATO members, including Croatia, the Lockheed Martin proposal also has some disadvantages.

The first would be the price. The offer proposed by the Americans for new F-16 Block 70/72 aircrafts is the most expensive of the four.

A package for 12 newly produced F-16V fighters plus the weapons, as well as the training of pilots and technicians, would cost the Croatian state about $1.8 billion.

Second, the new F-16 plant in Greenville, South Carolina, has a lot of work after Lockheed Martin received numerous orders for the new F-16 model.

Thus, the Croats could wait three or four years from signing the contract ultil the delivery of the combat aircrafts.

Also, the operating cost of the new F-16 Block 70 is about $20,000 per flight hour.

The offer of the Israelis to the Croats has been revised

In 2019, Croatia was very close to acquire 12 used F-16C/D Barak fighter jets from Israel.

The deal fell due to opposition from the United States, which did not agree to the deal because the aircrafts used by IDF had Israeli avionics installed.

This time, Israel offers the same 12 Barak F-16C/D fighters, but the Israeli avionics will be removed from the aircrafts and replaced with the American systems.

israeli f-16c barak fighter aircraft in flight
Israeli F-16C Barak multirole fighter aircraft in flight
Pic author: Aldo Bidini / Source: Wikimedia Commons / Original Source: / License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

This means that if the Israeli bid is selected as winner, Israel will share the profit with the United States.

With the replacement of the Israeli avionics with the original American ones, the F-16 Barak fighter jets will be equivalent to the F-16 Block 50/52 version.

The entire package offered by the Israelis including the 12 multi-role F-16C/D Barak aircrafts has a cost of $1 billion.

The cost per flight hour will be around $ 20,000.

A disadvantage of the Israeli offer is that the F-16 Barak aircrafts no longer have much flight resource, because the Israeli Air Force used the jets intensively during their service time.

The Swedes proposed the JAS 39C/D Gripen fighter jet

Swedish manufacturer Saab offers Croatia 12 new JAS 39C/D Gripen multirole fighters.

Surprisingly, Saab did not offer the newly much more advanced JAS 39E/F variant, chosen by Brazil.

a czech air force saab jas 39 gripen fighter aircraft in flight
A Czech Air Force Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft in flight
Pic author: Milan Nykodym from Kutna Hora, Czech Republic / Source: Wikimedia Commons / Original Source: Flickr / License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Gripen, a single-engine fighter aircraft, is similar in capabilities to the American F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The Swedish bid for the entire package, which includes 12 JAS 39C / D Gripen aircraft, would cost the Croatian state $ 1 billion.

The operating cost of the Gripen reaches 20,000 euros per flight hour, similar to the F-16 Block 70.

In Central and Eastern Europe, the other EU and NATO member states already operate these types of aircraft proposed to Croatia.

Thus, the F-16 Fighting Falcon is in service with Greece and Romania.

Greece also recently opted for Rafale, ordering 18 fighters from Dassault.

Bulgaria and Slovakia have ordered the new F-16V Block 70/72 produced by Lockheed Martin.

Further north, Hungary and the Czech Republic have leased 14 Gripen fighters each from the Swedish government.

Serbia, a neighbor of Croatia that does not intend to join NATO but wants to become a member of the European Union, has close relations with Russia, and the Serbian Air Force has in inventory 14 recently modernized MiG-29 Fulcrum aircrafts.

The 12 new multi-role aircrafts are extremely necessary for the Croatian Air Force, which currently operates 12 MiG-21bisD/UMD fighters whose flight resourse is limited.

a croatian mig-21 fighter aircraft in flight
A Croatian MiG-21 fighter aircraft in flight
Pic author: Chris Lofting / Source: Wikimedia Commons / Original Source: / License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

The Croatian Ministry of Defense plans to take a final decision regarding the future multi-role fighter in December 2020 in order to sign the contract in early 2021.

Croatia and Romania remained the only NATO states whose air forces still operate the old Soviet MiG-21 figher, a Vietnam War veteran.

The Romanian Air Force currently operates between 26 and 36 MiG-21 LanceR aircrafts, a more advanced version than the Croatian ones.

Romania, the largest state in Southeast Europe and an ally of Croatia in NATO and the EU, also has 14 F-16AM/BM Block 20 tape M5.2 multi-role fighters and is preparing to receive three more from Portugal in the following months.

Romania also plans to purchase another 36 F-16 multi-role aircrafts, bringing the entire fleet to 53 F-16 Fighting Falcon jets.

In the near future, Romania is also planning to acquire the fifth generation F-35 Lightning II multirole stealth fighter.

Zagreb will make a decision on the future Croatian multi-role aircrafts by December 12 this year.

It remains to be seen which model Croatia will opt for, but it is certain that no matter what it chooses, the Croatian Air Force will take a big step forward in terms of combat capabilities.