Croatian Air Force and Air Defence
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|Croatian Air Force and Air Defence|
Emblem of the Croatian Air Force and Defence
|Size||about 2,000 personnel
81 aircraft and helicopters
|H/Q||Pleso Airbase, Zagreb|
|Motto||Hrvatskim nebom bdiju i plove (Croatian Sky they Guard and Fly)|
|Engagements||Croatian War of Independence:
* Siege of Dubrovnik
* Operation Maslenica
* Operation Winter '94
* Operation Flash
* Operation Storm
* Operation Mistral
|brigadier general Dražen Šćuri (acting)|
|General Imra Agotić|
|Patrol||Bell 206B-3, Pilatus PC-9M|
|Trainer||Pilatus PC-9M, Zlin 242L, Bell 206B-3|
|Transport||An-32B, Mi-8 MTV-1, Mi-171Sh|
The Croatian Air Force as it is known now was established on 12 December 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. After 2003 almost the whole fleet was modernized or completely overhauled. Croatia is now expecting new helicopters and fighters to enter service in the near future, enabling the military to operate much needed up-to-date technology.
The primary role of Croatian Air Force and Air Defence is securing sovereignty of Croatian air space and providing air support to other services during joint operations. It is a proponent and organizer of the Croatian air defence integrated system. This double role of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence is realized with the following main tasks:
- Inspection and control of air space security
- Predominance in Croatian air space, over land and sea, with defence and attacks
- Providing help in natural, humanitarian and technological disasters
- Search and rescue operations
- Support to control of the proliferation of people and material goods
Commanders of the Croatian Air Force since its establishment in 1991:
- Imra Agotić
- Josip Čuletić
- Josip Štimac (2001–2002)
- Viktor Koprivnjak (2002–2007)
- Vlado Bagarić (2007–2011)
- Dražen Šćuri (2011–present)
- Air Force Command
- Command company
- 91st Air Force Base – Pleso, Zagreb
- Command company
- 21st Fighter Squadron – MiG-21bisD/UMD
- 27th Transport Aircraft Squadron – An-32B
- 28th Transport Helicopter Squadron – Mi-171Sh
- Air Force Technical Battalion
- 93rd Air Force Base – Zemunik, Zadar
- Command company
- 20th Transport Helicopter Squadron – Mi-8MTV-1
- 885th Firefighting Squadron – CL-415, AT-802
- Fixed-Wing Aircraft Squadron – PC-9M, Zlin 242L
- Helicopter Training Squadron – Bell 206B-3, Mi-8T
- Air Force Technical Battalion
- Air Surveillance Battalion
- Air Force Training Center
The core of the air force is a squadron of 10 modernized MiG-21bisD/UMD fighters (two single-seaters lost in a mid-air collision on September 23, 2010. In 2003 a minor upgrade and an extensive overhaul was performed in Romania, incorporating navigation and communication elements of the Lancer standard to make them interoperable with NATO air forces. The aircraft received no upgrade to their weapons systems. Despite initial plans to replace the MiG-21 fleet with a multi-role aircraft in 2013 (delayed from 2011 due to the financial crisis) and an official tender having been issued in 2008, ongoing budgetary constraints have led to the plan being abandoned and the fleet is to undergo an additional overhaul in 2013 extending its service life to at least 2020.
Pilot training is conducted on two types of aircraft. During late 2007, five new Zlin 242L Aerobatic basic trainers were acquired in order to replace seven old Utva 75. The deal was worth just under $2 million. An option for three additional basic trainers has not been exercised. The backbone of the training fleet is built around 20 Pilatus PC-9M advanced trainers which also represent the most numerous type of aircraft in Croatian service. These were ordered in 1997 (3 were former RAAF PC-9A examples converted to PC-9M standard) and entered full service a year later. The whole deal was worth around $100 million. They are also operated by the national aerobatic team called Krila Oluje / Wings of Storm. As a cost saving measure, the Croatian government has announced in its draft strategic defence review that it plans to downsize the PC-9 fleet to a 'suitable level' for the current air force fleet, substantially reduced since the mid-1990s. The current fleet size and facilities at Zemunik airbase would allow the Croatian Air Force to offer advanced pilot training to its NATO partners and for two years the Danish Air Force did train there. The lack of HUDs, HOTAS and hardpoints on Croatia's PC-9Ms, however, limits the usefulness of Croatia's advanced training programme.
The Croatian Air Force operates two Antonov An-32B tactical transports (serial: 707 built 1993, serial: 727 built 1991) which underwent a two-stage modernization in 2004 and 2007. They were fitted with NATO-standard navigational and communication equipment, additional systems for loading/unloading and flare dispensers. They have performed humanitarian and paratrooper missions as well as supporting Croatia's international military commitments such as for ISAF and KFOR. Due to budget limitations both aircraft have been offered for sale although they will continue to operate in HRZ service until a buyer can be found. In the draft of the strategic defence review, the Croatian government announced that no new tactical transport aircraft would be purchased before 2020 leaving Croatia reliant on its NATO partners for fixed-wing transport.
The helicopter fleet is equipped mainly with Russian-built Mi-17s and its derivates. The fleet includes three Mi-8 and 11 Mi-8MTV-1 (also known as Mi-17-1V) cargo helicopters, which underwent overhauls between 2003 and 2005. A batch of 6 Mi-8MTV-1 will undergo an overhaul again in 2013, while the remaining 8 units will follow in 2014 and 2015. This means that the current fleet will be maintained at least until 2023.
In 2006, a deal to deliver 10 new Mi-171Sh transport-attack helicopters was signed with Russia, itself a partial payment for an old Russian debt. The order itself was worth $66 million. The new type differs from the ones already in service in having a cargo ramp instead of clamshell doors, larger side doors, flare dispensers, additional armor around the cockpit and cargo compartment, night vision device equipment, door gunner posts, rocket launchers etc. The entire squadron of 10 helicopters entered service by July, 2008. Two additional VIP helicopters were planned for 2009 but their acquisition was postponed.
After more than 10 years in the Croatian service and great success in Operation Storm, the government finally decided to retire a squadron of seven Mi-24V helicopters in 2005 due to a costly modernization. Six are offered for sale at a price of $83,000 per aircraft, while one was sent to a museum. Plans for a new type of attack helicopter do not exist although these kinds of aircraft are definitely needed. The role of an armed support helicopter was taken over by new Mi-171s. In 2007, Croatia was very near to selling its Mi-24s to Georgia but due to Vladimir Putin's disapproval and danger of ruining good relations with Russia, the deal was not finalized.
While visiting Israel in November 2006, Croatian delegation agreed to buy two mid-size, state-of-the-art Hermes 450 and four small Skylark UAVs. Additional cameras, computer systems, spare parts and a ground station were also to be obtained. Two additional Skylark UAVs were to enter service in 2009. As of December 2012, the Skylark has been reported in service though no public records or images of Croatian Hermes 450 are available. This suggests that the order was cancelled due to funding issues.
After a horrible fire season during the summer of 2007 (12 firefighters lost their lives on a small island of Kornati), Croatia agreed to buy two new Canadair CL-415 and five Air Tractor AT-802 water bombers. These joined a fleet of four relatively new amphibians already in service. The entire deal was projected at $70 million. By making such an acquisition, Croatia became the leading power in aerial firefighting on the Mediterranean in respect to its population and surface.
MiG-21 replacement acquisition
Due to the global economic crisis which also affected Croatia, the decision on which fighter type should eventually enter service has been deferred until 2011, rather than by 2009 as was initially planned. This will see new aircraft enter service no sooner than 2012–2013. At the same time, after years of research and discussions, Air Force experts have released the study on new fighter procurement which states that Croatian Air Force needs at least 16 to 18 fighters in order to fulfill all its duties. As an interim solution the possibility of reactivating six to seven MiG-21s (out of 12 stored a few years ago) was mentioned in 2009 by some media. Similarly, there was also the possibility of one additional overhaul to the existing MiGs which was to prolong their life for another five years facilitating thus the burden of the fighter procurement costs on the country's budget. However, this possibility was officially rejected and on April 11, 2011 the Minister of Defence confirmed that Croatia will maintain a fleet of fighter aircraft and that it will not relegate its airspace control to any of the NATO membering countries. He also added that the decision on which aircraft to obtain will be brought in the upcoming months but having in mind not only the needs of the military but also of the entire country's economy.
In March 2011 a new information appeared in the Croatian media citing that Germany was prepared to donate (or sell cheaply) up to 20 of its F-4 Phantom II fighters to Croatia. Soon after, a similar offer was proposed by the Swedish Air Force which is willing to donate a squadron of its second-hand Saab Gripen aircraft free of charge to match German offer. Both proposals along with numerous other possibilities are currently under revision. The last one, from February 2012., speculates about F-16 Block 15 fighters from the Dutch Air Force.
Persistent media reports and ministerial statements focus on a life extension program for the existing HRZ MiG-21 fleet as a lower cost short-term alternative. The most recent reports suggest that Romanian company Aerostar – who upgraded the HRZ MiG-21 fleet to bisD / UMD standard in 2003 – will perform a limited overhaul on 12 aircraft (8 single-seat, 4 twin-seat) without any systems upgrades. It is unclear, but there are suggestions that this may involve surplus Romanian LanceR airframes.
Following an accident with a MiG-21UMD (the aircraft popularly known as 'Kockica') losing its canopy during a post-maintenance flight, on 20 June 2012 the Defence Minister issued a statement that a replacement aircraft or refurbishment package would be selected within 45 days. Despite the Minister's statement no announcement was made and the next development came on 8 October 2012 when Saab offered Croatia a financing deal for 6 single-seat and 2 twin-seat JAS39C/D Gripen. No further statement was released within the deadline for the Gripen purchase.
Finally in June 2013 the Defence Ministry announced that Ukrainian firm Ukrspetsexport will provide Croatia with 8 single-seat and 4 twin-seat upgraded aircraft. Due to their condition only 7 of these will be refurbished Croatian air frames and 5 will be 'new' air frames. 
Modernization and procurement programs 2007 – 2015
- Procurement of five Zlin 242L basic trainers. Program completed with five aircraft delivered in late 2007. Cost of program – 8 million Croatian Kuna.
- Procurement of two additional Canadair CL-415 fire bombers and five amphibious Air Tractor AT-802. Program completed with all five AT-802 delivered in 2008 and 2 CL-415 delivered in 2009. Cost of program – 340 million Croatian Kuna. These procurements were not planned and the funds were allocated from a surplus in the national budget.
- Procurement of 10 to 12 Mi-171Sh transport-attack helicopters and all associated spare parts and equipment. Program completed with 10 units delivered by July, 2008. Additional 2 units are planned. Cost of Program – 330 million Croatian Kuna paid in exchange for a Russian debt to Croatia.
- Modernisation of the combat aircraft fleet: overhaul or replacement. Cost of program – 5,000 million Croatian Kuna.
- Procurement of Advanced short-to-medium range NATO SAM systems and modernization of existing Russian-made 9K38 Igla SAMs. Croatia needs 12 short-to-medium range SAM batteries. Cost of program – 700–850 million Croatian Kuna.
- Modern Radar network. New modern Radar network was put into use in 2007 – AN/FPS-117 Radar network consisting of 5 radar stations across Croatia. Cost of program – 1,800 million Croatian Kuna, program was initiated in 1998 and paid for by Croatian MOD in 1999.
- Additional programs are also being considered – additional utility, ASW, SAR and police helicopters.
- Modernization costs will total €1,157 million, equivalent to US$396 per Croatian citizen.
|Aircraft||Photo||Origin||Type||Versions||In service||Serial numbers||Notes|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21||Soviet Union||fighter/interceptor
|115–118, 121, 122
|All aircraft produced 1972–1981 and entered service 1992–1994. Eight single seaters and 4 twin-seaters modernized in 2003, two single seaters lost in a training accident. Expected withdrawal in 2013. Additional 8 MiG-21bis are in storage and not airworthy.|
|Pilatus PC-9||Switzerland||advanced trainer||PC-9M||3
|Three second-hand PC-9/A acquired from RAAF in 1997, modernised to PC-9M. All PC-9M's are produced in 1997 and enetered full service in 1998.|
|Zlin 242||Czech Republic||basic trainer||242L Aerobatic||5||401–405||All aircraft produced and entered service in late 2007.|
|Aerial Firefighting Aircraft|
|Air Tractor AT-802||United States||firefighting, coastal patrol||AT-802F
|All aircraft (except one) produced and entered service in 2008.|
|Canadair CL-415||Canada||firefighting||CL-415||6||811, 844–888||All aircraft acquired new in 4 batches from 1999 till 2010.|
|Transport and Liaison Aircraft|
|Antonov An-32||Ukraine||tactical transport||An-32B||2||707, 727||Serial 707 produced in 1993 and serial 727 in 1991; both entered service in 1996. Modernized in two stages, in 2004 and again in 2007. Offered for sale.|
|Bombardier Challenger 600||Canada||VIP transport||CL-604||1||9A-CRO||Government aircraft on civilian register, used also for urgent medical transport.|
|Elbit Skylark||Israel||reconnaissance||Skylark I||6||–||Acquired in 2007 and 2008, more to be ordered. Used by the Army.|
|Elbit Hermes 450||Israel||reconnaissance||Hermes 450||2||–||Ordered placed in 2007 but no evidence of having been introduced into service.|
|Transport and Utility Helicopters|
|Mil Mi-24||Soviet Union||attack helicopter||Mi-24V||6||-||Underwent modernization and upgrades in 2000 but due to high operating costs put up for sale in 2006, due to Russia objections helicopters were never sold to Georgia, only country interested in the purchase of helicopters. Six Mi-24V were put on operational reserve status and remaining 9 helicopters cannibalized for spare parts and engines with one destined for future military museum planned in Zagreb.  |
|Mil Mi-17||Russia||combat-support helicopter
201, 202, 204, 206, 210–213, 215, 251, 254
|Acquired new and entered service in 2008, aka Mi-8AMTSh.
Most units acquired new 1992–1994, aka Mi-8MTV-1. Underwent overhauls 2003-2005 and will undergo again starting 2013.
|Mil Mi-8||Soviet Union||transport helicopter||Mi-8T||3||274–276||Utility transport variant. Underwent an overhaul in 2005 and will undergo another one in 2015.|
|Bell 206||United States||training helicopter, light utility||206B-3||8||602–608, 610||Acquired new and entered service in 1997.|
Aircraft that have been retired
- 2 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21- used for spare parts
- 2 Soko G-2 Galeb – retired in 1996 due to the lack of spare parts
- 1 Soko J-21 Jastreb – retired in 1996 due to the lack of spare parts
- 1 Soko J-20 Kraguj – retired due to overall obsolescence in 1996
- 1 Lola Utva 60 – retired in 90's
- 4 Lola Utva 66 – retired in 90's
- 11 Lola Utva 75 – put out of service recently, replaced by Zlin 242L
- 3 Canadair CL-215 Scooper – last retired in 2004, replaced by Canadair CL-415 Superscooper
- 2 Air Tractor AT-400 – retired in 1993
- 1 Dornier Do 28 – retired in 2004
- 1 Dassault Falcon 10 – replaced by Bombardier Challenger
- 11 Antonov An-2 – handed over to aeroclubs throughout the years, some can be called into service
- 4 Cessna 172 – retired in 1997
- 2 Cessna A.188B Agwagon – retired in 1992
- 1 Cessna T.210N Centurion – retired in 2004
- 4 Piper PA-18 Super Cub – retired in 1996
- 2 Piper PA-25-235 Brave – retired in 1992
- 3 Piper PA-28 Warrior – retired in 1997
- 1 Piper PA-31P – retired in 2005
- 2 Piper PA-36 Pawnee Brave – retired in 1992
- 2 PZL M-18 Dromader – retired in 1992
- 9 Mil Mi-24D/V – withdrawn in 2002 (Mi-24D) and 2005 (Mi-24V), 6 up for sale
- 7 Mil Mi-8T/S – used for spares
- 3 Agusta Bell 212 – transferred to the Croatian Police
- 4 MD Helicopters MD 500 – last retired in 2001, replaced by Bell 206
- 1 Agusta-Bell AB.47J-2A – returned to museum in 1992
- YU-BKB crashed on 9 November 1991 (take-off accident)
- YU-BOP downed 2 December 1991 (SA-6), pilots Marko Živković and Mirko Vukušić, parachutists Ante Plazibat and Rade Griva killed
- YU-BOF crashed 26 January 1992 (training accident), pilots Branko Fridel, Bojan Vojvoda, Mladen Škalica, mechanic Boris Kekez and parachutist Davor Šabić killed
- 101 downed 24 June 1992 (friendly fire SA-14), pilot Antun Radoš killed
- 103 downed 14 September 1993 (SA-7), over Gvozd (then Vrginmost), pilot Miroslav Peris killed
- 104 crashed on 21 April 1995 (tree accident), pilot Zlatko Mejaški killed
- 119 downed 2 May 1995 (20/3 mm AA gun), over Stara Gradiška, pilot Rudolf Perešin killed
- 109 crashed on 14 August 1996 (lost orientation), pilot Ivan Bosnar killed
- 108 and 120 crashed near Slunj on 23 September 2010 after a collision over Vukelići village, both pilots ejected safely
- 891 crashed on 2 September 2004 (tree accident; island Hvar)
- 894 crashed on 25 June 2011 (lost orientation; island Brač)
- HT-40 downed 4 November 1991 (friendly fire), Lučko Airport
- H-208 crashed on 26 February 1993
- H-209 burned at ground 4 December 1994 (Lučko Airport)
- H-205 crashed on 22 November 1995 (freezing of the rotor)
- H-253 crashed on 18 September 1997 (lost orientation)
- H-207 crashed on 20 July 2004 (taxi accident)
- H-253 (ex H-214) crashed on 10 July 2007 (technical failure), Juraj Ruškač, Vjekoslav Ljubo and Ljubica Perišić killed on ground
- H-309 accident on 10 June 1995 (weather conditions/stall), destroyed on the ground to avoid capture
- one lost in transport on January 1994 (hooked under Mi-8)
- H-601 crashed on 16 October 1997 (accident at hover)
- H-609 crashed on 12 February 1998 (pilot error), killed Šime Ražnjević on ground
- MiG-21, 1991, Đakovo
- G-2, 5 August 1991, Zadar
- J-21, 24256, 24 August 1991, Vukovar/Bršadin
- J-21, 24 August 1991, Bogdanovci
- J-21, 7 September 1991, Bršadin
- J-21, 7 September 1991, Vukovar
- J-21, 24136, 16 September 1991, Osijek/Donji Miholjac
- J-21, 24116, 17 September 1991, Tenja
- G-4, 23603, 17 September 1991, Vukovar/Sarvaš
- MiG-21, 17109, 18 September 1991, Ogulin
- J-21, 18 September 1991, Rogoznica
- MiG-21, 18 September 1991, Petrinja
- J-22, 25508, 19 September 1991, Đakovo
- J-22, 19 September 1991, Novska
- J-21, 20 September 1991, Šibenik
- G-2, 23254, 20 September 1991, Kornati
- G-2, 23264, 20 September 1991, Brač
- G-2, 20 September 1992, Žirje
- Gazelle, 20 September 1991, Split
- J-21, 21 September 1992, Primošten
- G-4, 24 September 1991, Vukovar
- G-4, 23733, 24 September 1991, Lički Ribnik
- J-20, 30141, 3 October 1991, Konavle
- Mi-8, 12245, 4 October 1991, Slavonski Brod
- Gazelle, 5 October 1991, Konavle
- MiG-21, 17130, 6 October 1991, Slunj
- J-21, 17 October 1991, Ston
- J-21, 24268, 4 November 1991, Vukovar/Kisač
- MiG-21, 26111, 8 November 1991, Delnice/Ravna Gora
- G-2, 8 November 1991, Zadar
- MiG-21, 17156, 9 November 1991, Đakovo/Vrpolje
- G-4, 23734, 9 November 1991, Vinkovci/Bačka Palanka (Serbia)
- J-21, 24414, 12 November 1991, Sinj
- J-21, 15 November 1991, over the sea
- G-4, 23631, 24 April 1992, Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- MiG-21, 26109, 12 April 1992, Kupres (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- J-21, 24201, 13 April 1992, Bosanski Brod (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- J-21, 23 April 1992, Čapljina (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- J-21, 24 April 1992, Cerovica (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- MiG-21, 17152, 2 May 1992, Slavonski Brod
- J-22, 25105, 28 June 1992, Odžak/Modriča (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- Mi-8, 12402, 17 July 1992, Gradačac (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- History of Croatian Air force
- Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops
- Yugoslav Royal Air Force
- Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia
- Croatian Air Force Legion
- Yugoslav Partisans
- Balkan Air Force
- Yugoslav Air Force
- Lisko, T. and Canak, D., Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo u Drugome Svejetskom Ratu (The Croatian Airforce in the Second World War) Zagreb, 1998 ISBN 953-97698-0-9.
- Savic, D. and Ciglic, B. Croatian Aces of World War II Osprey Aircraft of the Aces – 49, Oxford, 2002 ISBN 1-84176-435-3.
- Air Forces Monthly, Feb 2013 Edition, Key Publishing
- Hrvatska korak bliže nabavi borbenih aviona F-4 Phantoma ("Croatian")
- Sweden Offers Gripen to Croatia
- "Odluka o avionima HRZ-a u sljedećih 45 dana" [Decision on CAF planes in the next 45 days] (in Croatian). Nacional (weekly). 20 June 2012. Archived from the original on 25 July 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2012.
- Croatian military aviation OrBat
- "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal.com, December 11, 2012.
- Chronological Listing of Croatia Losses & Ejections
- Chronological Listing of Yugoslav Losses & Ejections
- J-21 shot down over Sibenik caught on video
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Air force of Croatia|
- Official website (English version)