The Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia has given the State of Israel a deadline on its capability to deliver the aircraft offered at the international tender and chosen by the Republic of Croatia in a transparent procedure by 11 January 2019. Croatia urged Israel to overcome a rare disagreement with the US and confirm whether it can carry through on a deal to sell 12 used F-16 C/D Block 30 Barak fighters, adding that otherwise the purchase will be annulled. NATO member Croatia faces a mini arms race with Russian ally Serbia, which recently received six used Russian MiG-29 fighter jets.
The deal ran into trouble after the U.S. State Department hinted that Israel needs to strip off the upgrades that were added after Israel took delivery of the planes from the U.S. some 30 years ago. Israel upgraded the jets with sophisticated electronic and radar systems, which was crucial in Croatia’s decision to buy the planes from Israel rather than from the U.S. Relations between the Trump administration and Israel have been very close, particularly on defense issues. But the sale of the jets to Croatia appears to be an exception. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Tuesday in Brazil but didn’t agree on a way to end the impasse.
Israel has upgraded the jets with sophisticated electronic and radar systems, which was crucial in Croatia’s decision to buy the planes from Israel rather than from the US. The tentative $500 million deal to buy the upgraded F-16 C/D Block 30 Barak fighter jets from Israel was made in March last year. It’s not clear what else the package includes, but it’s safe to assume some training and sustainment services are also part of the deal. The Israeli Air Force has roughly 125 Baraks in service, making it still the backbone of the service’s air combat force. Around 48 of those aircraft are two seat D models.