The Croatian Air Force’s antiquated MiG 21 jets will soon be completely unusable, Zagreb admitted: Hungarians and Italians will protect their skies. Croatian Air Force pilots will soon undergo training to switch to the French manufactured Rafale aircraft, reported Jutarnij.hr.
“Croatian airspace will be monitored for a short time by fighter planes from Hungary and Italy,” Defense Minister Mario Banožić announced on Croatian Radio. He said that this is necessary because the country’s pilots and mechanics will be undergoing training to switch to Rafale planes. According to him, 90 pilots and mechanics will be trained for the use and maintenance of the Rafale.
Banožić did not want to reveal when Hungarian and Italian planes could take over control of Croatian skies. Apart from the intensive training of mechanics and pilots, the reason for the engagement of Italian and Hungarian planes is the exhaustion of Croatian MiGs’ resources. At the moment, the Croatian Air Force has eight MiG 21 fighter planes. The resources of some of these planes will expire this year, and some must be grounded in 2024 and beyond. There is no official data on how many fighter planes are operationally ready per day, and according to unofficial information, on average, about 60 percent of them are ready to fly.
MIG 21 of the Croatian Air Force. Photo: Facebook Suboticanin Suboticanin II
Banožić added that the first Rafales will arrive in Croatia in the first quarter of next year, when the infrastructure for their reception should be ready. The last ones should arrive in the first quarter of 2025. Considering this pace of delivery, it can be expected that the Italian and Hungarian planes will be engaged at the end of this year.
Hungary has JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets, and Italy has Eurofighter Typhoon and F-35 Lightning military aircraft. Hungarian planes would be engaged to monitor eastern and central Croatia, and Italian planes would monitor the airspace of the coastal parts. They would not be stationed in Croatia, but would perform flights in their airspace as needed. They would also enter Croatian airspace in case of any emergency. At the moment, Hungary is also in charge of monitoring Slovenia’s and Slovakia’s airspace.
Back in 2019, Croatia and Hungary signed an agreement that removed legal and diplomatic obstacles for Hungary to monitor Croatia’s airspace if necessary. The document states that the two countries monitor and protect airspace as part of NATO’s integrated air defense and anti-missile defense system.
As the provisions of NATO stipulate that the airspace of the members of the Alliance must be under protection 24 hours a day, this provision of the agreement enables the NATO command in Spain, which directly commands the air forces of the member countries to protect the airspace, in the shortest possible time without legal entanglements orders the Hungarian Air Force to monitor Croatian airspace. In order for Italian planes to monitor their airspace, Croatia has yet to sign the same agreement with Italy, and before its application it must be ratified by the Parliament.
Via Jutarnij.hr; Featured Image: Facebook Zoltán Balog