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Croatia, Slovenia to pursue joint fighter deal

Croatia and Slovenia have agreed to form a new working group to study the possible joint procurement of at least 12 multirole fighters.

Croatia's remaining MiG-21s will reach the end of their service lives by the end of 2011. Two of its aircraft were lost in a recent mid-air collision, which reduced its fleet of the type to 10, but that includes only four operational examples.

The nation had postponed a new fighter tender due to budget constraints, with the Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen having been in contention. It is unclear when a decision could be made under the new bilateral arrangement.

The Slovenian air force has nine Pilatus PC-9Ms modified to carry unguided rockets and pod-housed machine guns. They are also wired to carry Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, although Italy now provides air policing cover for the nation.

A joint Croatian/Slovenian air force could be established at the latter's Cerklje air base, with co-operation between the NATO members to also possibly be extended to a joint transport acquisition.

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