Germany has offered Croatia a possible deal to acquire 20 of its McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom fighters, as Zagreb nears a decision on how to replace its remaining Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-21s. Just two of these are available at any given time to protect its airspace.
Croatia must retire its eight MiG-21bisD fighters and two MiG-21UMD trainers by November 2013, while the German air force plans to phase out its last ICE upgrade-standard Phantoms by the end of the same year.
Cash-strapped Croatia is considering whether to launch a competition for a new supersonic fighter, or move for an interim solution that would allow it to slip an expensive purchase by around five years.
© Igor Bozinovski
Germany has offered Croatia a possible deal to acquire 20 of its McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantom fighters, as Zagreb nears a decision on how to replace its remaining Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG-21s
Alternatively, it could opt to retire its MiG-21s with no replacement capability and request that NATO cover its air defence requirements until its financial situation improves.
Flown from its 91 AFB at Pula, Croatia's MiG-21s were produced between 1972 and 1980 and upgraded with NATO-compatible systems by Romania's Aerostar in 1993.
Wittmund-based Fighter Wing 71 is the German air force's sole remaining F-4F unit, with the type flown by its 711 and 712 squadrons. Two of the aircraft are providing quick reaction alert cover for NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the latter's Siauliai air base, with the commitment to end on 28 April.
Germany's Phantoms accumulated more than 5,000 flight hours last year, but use of the type will be reduced to 3,000h in 2011, 1,800h in 2012 and 900h in 2013.