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Croatia finally settles on Israeli F-16 offer

March 28, 2018 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Croatia announced it will accept Israel’s offer to supply its air force with F-16s, scheduled to be delivered by late 2020. Croatia asked five countries last year to bid for contracts to supply it with fighter jets: Sweden, Israel, the United States, Greece and South Korea.

IDFAF F-16A block 10 #777 in the colors of Tayeset 144 is parked on a cracked tarmac at Ben Gurion IAP on November 14th, 2014. [ photo by John Bennett]

The Israeli offer, which according to the media reports is worth some $500 million, includes a mix of F-16C/Ds that are still in active service in the Israel Air Force as well as some older F-16A/Bs.

“The defense council has accepted that Israel made the best offer and accordingly gave a recommendation to the government,” the defense council, comprising top state and defense officials, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Its recommendation must now be formally approved by the government.

The Swedish company Saab had offered some stiff competition with a squadron of new JAS-39 Gripen C/Ds, in a proposal that local media reported was worth some 800 million euros ($992 million). South Korea had offered the KAI FA-50 while the US and Greece had offered some used F-16s as well.

Croatia joined the NATO alliance in 2009 and the European Union in 2013. The F-16s will replace the 12 obsolete Soviet-designed MiG-21bisD/UMD of the Croatian Air Force.

In December 2016, Israel retired its fleet of F-16A and F-16B (Netz) fighter jets to accommodate for the F-35A Lightning II's. Over the past 36 years the F-16s had become the backbone of the Israel Air Force.

Israel’s F-16A/Bs were originally destined for the Imperial Iranian Air Force, but with the fall of the Shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the establishment of the fundamentalist regime, and following the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, Jerusalem reached an agreement to acquire the advanced jet from the United States under the Peace Marble I Foreign Military Sales program.

The first four F-16A/Bs arrived in Israel in July 1980 and achieved initial operating capability a few weeks later.

With the F-16C/D Barak, and one of the most advanced F-16s ever built, the F-16I Soufa, Israel flies the largest contingent of F-16s outside the United States, with close to 300 jets. All the aircraft have been heavily modified with Israeli-made avionics, self-protection systems, radar and advanced weapons such as the Python-4 and -5 air-to-air missiles and the Popeye and Spice air-to-ground missiles.

Additional images:

IDFAF F-16C block 30 #345 from Tayeset 117 is taking off with full afterburner. [Photo by Ra'anan Weiss]

IDFAF F-16B block 10 (original) #996 from Tayeset 116 is parked on the flightline at Ovda AB on November 25th, 2013. [Photo by Marco Pennings]

IDFAF F-16A block 10 #729 from Tayeset 116 is parked in a hanger at Holz AB on April 15th, 2013. [Photo by Marco Pennings]