Military Aviation

SAAB HOPEFUL CROATIA WILL START COMPETITION FOR FIGHTER JETS SOON

Croatia intends to replace soon its ageing Soviet-built MiG-21s and among the aircraft evaluated by the Croatian Air Force there are the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Rafale and the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50

An executive from Saab said Croatia has been taking a close look at the company’s JAS 39 Gripen fighter and he hopes that the country can start a competition sooner rather than latter.

“It has gone from something we thought was going to take a little bit longer, and maybe the Croatians thought that as well, but now it feels like it is, if not urgent, then at least it is happening quicker than anticipated,” Magnus Lewis-Olsson, Saab’s head of Europe, told Reuters.

“It does feel like it is becoming more relevant in the next one or two years.”

Croatia, a member of the NATO military alliance since 2009, has already inspected a Gripen and will continue to gather information from other companies this year, Saab officials said.

As we have already reported in fact Croatia intends to replace soon its ageing Soviet-built MiG-21 Fishbeds and among the aircraft evaluated by the Croatian Air Force there are the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Rafale and the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50.

“We’ve had air shows there, we have been there, we have been there with simulators. The combined signal is, ‘Yes, we want to buy fighters’,” Lewis-Olsson said.

Serbia, Croatia’s neighbor and a foe in the 1991-1995 war, recently procured six MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets from Russia and nine utility helicopters from Airbus to modernize its outdated air force.

Meanwhile Saab is looking to increase the use of the Gripen in central and eastern Europe: actually the Czech Republic has 14 jets in its inventory while Slovakia, which recently signed a “Joint Sky” agreement with the Czechs, has had talks about buying Gripens but is fielding offers from other companies too.

Bulgaria last month decided to enter talks on acquiring Gripens although a new government has been reviewing the decision.

However according to Lewis-Olsson Saab remained confident it would hold talks on buying or leasing jets in both Slovakia and Bulgaria.

Photo credit: Arz1969 (Ministry of Defense – Lithuania), via Wikimedia Commons and Zerbet, from Wikimedia Commons

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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