Israel's government has abandoned a plan to sell surplus Lockheed Martin F-16s to Croatia, as the Middle Eastern country could not obtain approval from the USA to transfer the second-hand fighters fitted with Israeli equipment.

In 2018, the Croatian government reached an agreement with Tel Aviv to take 12 former Israeli air force F-16 Barak jets, alongside a support package including a simulator, spare parts, ground equipment, training, logistical services and an "initial" weapons suite.

"Israel was responsible to obtain approval from the [USA] to deliver the aircraft… in the ordered configuration," says the Croatian defence ministry.

Noting that the aircraft were "embedded with Israeli know-how and technology", the director general of Israel's defence ministry, Udi Adam, states: "Regretfully, the conditions were not ripe, and we were unable to secure an adequate [third party transfer] and realise the project due to unanticipated circumstances beyond our control."

He adds: "Croatia could not have influenced this outcome and cannot be held responsible."

Adam and Croatia's deputy prime minister and defence minister Damir Krsticevic met on 10 January, after Croatia had set Israel a deadline earlier this month to make a decision on the feasibility of aircraft deliveries.

Krsticevic states that "Croatia still has the political will to keep its combat air force capability" and that he is convinced the government "will find a way to fulfil this goal".

As no final contract had been signed with Israel, Croatia has not suffered financially from the failed deal, he says.

In addition to Israel, the Croatian government had previously requested proposals for a combat aircraft supply contract from Greece, South Korea, Sweden and the USA, although South Korea's bid later dropped out of the process because it did not meet the requirements.

Despite the setback, Krsticevic notes that Croatia is "still open to co-operation" with Israel.

Adam says his country is looking forward to "further developing fruitful relations… in a broad range of areas" with Croatia.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Croatia's air force has 12 Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters among a mixed fleet of trainers, transport and fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters.