Croatia will launch a new tender for the Croatian Air Force's multi-purpose combat aircraft, Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic said in Zagreb on Monday.
Krsticevic's comment came after it was finally confirmed last week that the previously agreed 3.1 billion kuna ($477 million) deal to buy a squadron of twelve F-16 fighter jets from Israel fell through.
He told reporters that Israeli defence ministry officials who visited Zagreb last week confirmed that they had failed to obtain necessary approval from the United States for the sale to go through.
"It was solely their responsibility... The Israelis said once again that the entire process was highly professional and open on Croatia's part... that we asked all the necessary questions and received all the necessary guarantees in this process," Krsticevic said.
"The United States, our strategic defence partner, emphasised from the outset, including in its latest statement, that it gave full support for the Croatian acquisition of F-16 aircraft from Israel," he added.
Krsticevic said that Croatia would now launch a new tender for the procurement of much needed fighter jets.
"We will close this process transparently and, with all this experience and knowledge, we will start a new process... so that Croatia would finally get quality multi-purpose aircraft it needs... This government will certainly do all it can for this to happen," Krsticevic said.
The deal with Israel, approved in March last year, involved the same of twelve F-16 C/D Barak fighter jets. The aircraft, between 25 and 30 years old, were intended to replace the outdated Soviet-made MiG-21 aircraft currently used by the Croatian Air Force.
The shorlisted bids which eventually lost to Israel also included a set of Swedish Gripen fighter jets, and another F-16 bid by the United States, which offered a batch of upgraded and more modern version of the planes, but at a price point more than three times higher.
Last week, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who is formally the Croatian armed forces' commander-in-chief, said that valuable time has been lost with the failed Israeli deal, and that getting new jets is essential, as Croatian Air Force has now been reduced to only three airworthy MiG-21s.