NATO-member Croatia is set to buy a squadron of used F-16 fighter jets from Israel to replace its Russian-made MiG-21s, after the country’s top defense body backed the deal.
“The defense council … has accepted that Israel made the best offer and gave a recommendation to the government to decide on acquiring” the Israeli planes, the defense council said in statement late Tuesday.
The deal to buy 12 used F-16 jets, worth $500 million according to media reports, has yet to be confirmed by the government, but the approval is believed to be just a formality.
The jets are between 25-30 years old, and the deal includes two flight simulators, pilot and maintainer training and weapons, Hina reported.
“It is a historic decision … a project guaranteeing Croatia’s security and sovereignty,” Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic told the state-run HR radio Wednesday.
The minister has said he expects the first jets to arrive in 2020, and the remainder by 2022.
Top Croatian officials have voiced concern over the condition of the country’s MiG-21s. Media reports said that only four of the 12 were fully operational.
Zagreb issued a tender last year to acquire military jets, and Israel, Greece, South Korea, Sweden and the United States were invited to bid.
Croatia joined NATO in 2009 and the European Union four years later.
With reporting from AFP