Croatia accepted Israel's offer for multi-purpose fighter jets, a government statement said after a meeting of the national Defence Council on Tuesday evening.
An expert team of the defence ministry presented a feasibility study at the meeting, based on which the Council accepted the Israeli bid as the most favourable one and recommended to the government to adopt a decision on the purchase of multi-purpose fighter aircraft.
Croatia will buy 12 used and upgraded Israeli F-16 Barak aircraft for about €420 million. The aircraft are between 25 and 30 years old and will replace the outdated MiG-21 aircraft currently in use by the Croatian Air Force. Other bids considered were for Swedish Gripen, U.S. F-16 and Greek F-16 aircraft.
The Israeli bid also includes two flight simulators, training of pilots and maintenance staff, and weapons for the aircraft. The plan is to use these aircraft for up to 30 years.
In mid-December 2017, the Croatian Parliament's Defence Committee unanimously gave a positive opinion on this project.
Addressing the press after the meeting, President Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Plenkovic said that the decision was made unanimously, taking into account national interests, financial means and the overall situation in the country.
"I think we are making a responsible decision that will ensure the capability of the Croatian Air Force over the next 30 years and more," Plenković said after the Council discussed all four bids. He added that this was a long-term strategic decision that would strengthen the Croatian Armed Forces.
"This is a demanding decision which many previous governments and political groups have delayed until now. Last year the Defence Council decided to embark on this process, which has been designed in accordance with professional rules and the Croatian law. We have set aside funds for this purpose in the budget and now we will go ahead with it," Plenković said.
The first Israeli F-16 planes should be delivered to Croatia by the summer of 2020, and the entire squadron is expected to be operational by 2022.