When a country needs to replace increasingly obsolete fighters but can't afford to buy new ones from the manufacturer, getting them second-hand is always an option. Croatia has found themselves in that very boat recently while seeking to upgrade their air force.
According to a report by Agence France Presse, they found a solution in the form of 12 Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Israeli Air Force. The total cost of this deal was €403 million, nearly $500 million USD. That might seem pricey, but it's a great deal when compared to the $165 million per new F-16 that Iraq paid, according to a 2011 Time Magazine report.
A MiG-21 Fishbed with the Croatian Air Force. These aircraft were left after the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Wikimedia Commons photo by Tomislav Haraminčić
Israel's used Falcons provide a cheap upgrade
Currently, the Croatian Air Force has 12 MiG-21 Fishbed fighters on inventory. The Fishbed entered service with the Soviet Air Force in 1959. Almost 11,500 Fishbeds were produced by the USSR and the plane was widely exported, seeing service with dozens of countries, including Vietnam, North Korea, Serbia, and Iraq. The MiG-21 is equipped with a twin-barrel 23mm cannon as well as AA-2 Atoll and AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missiles. It has a top speed of 1,381 miles per hour and an unrefueled range of 741 miles.Compared to the newer F-16, the Fishbed looks like ancient technology. An Air Force fact sheet reports that the F-16 Fighting Falcon has a top speed of 1,500 miles per hour and a maximum range of over 2,000 miles. The F-16 is capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions. While the AFP report did not state which model of F-16s Israel is selling to Croatia, GlobalSecurity.org notes that Israel retired its force of F-16A/B models in 2015.
This Israeli F-16A shot down six and a half enemy planes and took part in the 1981 Osirak reactor strike. Israel retired these planes in 2015, but some will have new life in Croatia.
Wikimedia Commons photo by Zachi Evenor
Not Israel's first used plane sale
This is not the first time that Israel has sold off old warplanes. Argentina bought IAI Nesher fighters from Israel that saw action in the Falklands War. Additionally, a private company acquired former Israeli Air Force A-4s, which will soon see action in a multi-national exercise hosted by the Netherlands.