Croatia to refurbish MiGs, delaying new combat type

Belgrade
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The Croatian government has formally decided to refurbish part of its current Mikoyan MiG-21-based fleet, and to add more examples of the type to have one operational squadron, as a shortage of funds continues to thwart plans to acquire a new type.

The nation's defence ministry has shortlisted Romania's Aerostar and Ukraine's SE Odessa Aircraft Plant as potential contractors for the overhaul of seven air force MiG-21s, and the provision of five additional aircraft.

A decision is expected soon, with Croatian media reporting bids from the companies valued at a respective €18.6 million ($24.7 million) and €13.9 million. The latter offer includes the proposed delivery of aircraft left from a partially cancelled deal with Yemen, which took delivery of only 20 MiG-21s from a 28-unit order, says Ukrainian ambassador to Croatia Alexander Lavachenko.

Aerostar has previously conducted an overhaul and limited upgrade to eight MiG-21bis fighters for Croatia, and added four enhanced UMD-model two-seat trainers in 2003.

Possible replacements for the MiG-21s had included used Lockheed Martin F-16s or Saab Gripens, with Sweden's FXM organisation having tabled an offer for eight of the latter in October 2012. Other potential solutions could have included acquiring secondhand MiG-29s from RAC MiG, retired McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms from the German air force or surplus Dassault Mirage F1s or Israel Aircraft Industries-built Kfirs.

Separately, Croatia has selected Ukrainian overhaul facilities in Sevastopol and at Motor Sich in Zaporozhye to support the overhaul of six Mil Mi-8/17 utility helicopters, with work on the first aircraft expected to be complete in October 2013.