The Croatian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reportedly decided to upgrade a portion of the national air force’s Soviet-era MiG-21 fighter aircraft fleet after financial constraints disrupted the acquisition of new combat aircraft.
With plans to have one operational squadron of the aircraft, the MoD has already shortlisted Romania’s Aerostar and Ukrainian SE Odessa Aircraft Plant as potential contenders for the modernisation of seven MiG-21s, and supply of additional five aircraft, reports FlightGlobal.
Having already received proposals from the companies, valued at €18.6m and €13.9m respectively, the ministry is expected to announce a decision soon, according to local media reports.
Ukrainian ambassador to Croatia Alexander Lavachenko said the Ukrainian offer includes the supply of aircraft left from a partially cancelled contract with Yemen, which took delivery of only 20 aircraft from an original 28-unit deal.
Aerostar already performed an overhaul and limited upgrade to eight Croatian MiG-21bisD fighters in 1993, and followed with the modernisation of four enhanced UMD-model two-seat trainers in 2003.
Possible replacements for the cash-strapped Croatian MiG-21 fighters included the German Air Force’s retired F-4 Phantoms, used Dutch F-16 Block 15 Fighting Falcons, and Saab Gripens, with Swedish Defence and Security Export Agency (FXM) putting forward a proposal for eight fighters in October 2012.
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Other potential solutions included procurement of used MiG-29s from RAC MiG, surplus Mirage F1 or Israel Aircraft Industries-built Kfir aircraft.
Manufactured by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau, MiG-21 is a supersonic jet combining both fighter and interceptor characteristics in a single aircraft, and is designed to conduct very short ground-controlled interception missions.
Having entered service between 1992 and 1994, the Croatian MiG-21 fighters are widely operated for fighter / interceptor and training operations.
Image: A Croatian Air Force’s MiG-21UMD fighter during its flight. Photo: Courtesy of Chris Lofting.