November 10, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - According to the Croatian newspaper "Nacional", the USA is ready to offer Croatia used F-16s for free. This was the outcome of a recent meeting between the head of the Croatian Air Force and US military officials in the Pentagon.
USAF F-16A, covered with spraylat, preserved at Davis-Monthan AB.
A Croatian military delegation visited the United States between 10 to 19 September. Top US military officials seemed to be exceedingly satisfied with all joint Croatian-American military operations in Afghanistan.
Also, Croatia has demonstrated consistency in its relations with the USA over the past two years. It has fulfilled its promises and this bolstered its credibility with American foreign policy officials.
The donation of F-16s to Croatia would have wide-reaching security significance as it would help Croatia to safeguard the stability in the Balkan region from an American stand point.
Besides a political interest for the donation, there is also an economical one. Should Croatia decide to purchase new fighter aircraft, Sweden's Gripen looks like a more affordable solution both in terms of base price and longer term offset programs, which the Americans for sure would like to avoid.
The F-16s the US might be offering will be older, but nonetheless excellent aircraft, which are currently in storage and not serving their purpose anyways. Besides investing in a new infrastructure Croatia also have to pay the US for pilot training, spare parts and their likely modernisation.
Then once the F-16 becomes obsolete and Croatia has made a considerable investment in the Lockheed Martin jets, it will make it much more likely for them to consider the F-35 as a follow-on purchase.
Croatia currently has a dozen ageing, Soviet-era MiG-21s bought in the mid 1990s. It is believed only three or four are now airworthy.