US Embassy, Defence Minister Comment on F-16 Sale Rumours

By 7 December 2018

ZAGREB, December 7, 2018 - The US Embassy in Zagreb said on Friday that it was cooperating with Croatia and Israel on finding an acceptable solution that would enable the confirmation of an agreement on the purchase of Israeli F-16 fighter jets by Croatia, following reports in the Israeli media that the US was blocking the F-16 sale.

Israeli media have reported that US Secretary of Defence James Mattis is not allowing Israel to sell 12 F-16 fighter jets to Croatia. The US administration must give its consent to the country to which it has sold its planes if that country wants to sell them to a third country.

The US Embassy said in a statement today that it has been cooperating with Israel for more than a year regarding the details of the proposed agreement on the purchase of F-16 jets. The US side says that during the talks it has been consistent and clear on technical conditions under which it would be willing to agree to the conclusion of the agreement. The embassy said that it was currently cooperating with Israel and Croatia on agreeing an acceptable option that meets Croatia's needs for the set time period.

The Israeli media have reported that Washington is angry because it believes that by upgrading the electronic systems in the US-made aircraft, Israel has unfairly profited from their sale to Croatia.

The Croatian government in March decided to buy 12, about 30-year-old F-16 Barak fighter jets from Israel. Previously, in the summer of 2017 it sent a request for the purchase of aircraft to five countries - the USA, Sweden, Greece, South Korea and Israel. In October 2017, bids were opened and the Israeli offer was selected as the most favourable.

Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Friday that Croatia had not received any official notification that the USA was blocking the delivery of Israeli F-16 jets to Croatia.

In a statement to the press, the minister said that Croatia was not familiar with the information published by Israeli media that US Secretary of Defence James Mattis was not allowing Israel to sell 12 F-16 fighter jets to Croatia.

"The news about that was published on Thursday evening. Croatia has not received any official notification. When we receive it, we will inform the public accordingly," Krstičević told reporters during a visit to Split.

Krstičević recalled that the US government had given Israel permission to offer the Israeli F-16 jets to Croatia. "We have a document to that effect. In its bid, Israel undertook to deliver to Croatia aircraft that is compatible with NATO and obliged itself to ensure that the extension of the planes' service life complies with the original manufacturer's criteria. Delivery, too, is the responsibility of the State of Israel. Based on those documents and the tender, we made the decision on the purchase of the multipurpose fighter jets and the process was legal and transparent," said Krstičević.

The Croatian government on March 29 unanimously adopted a decision to buy 12 F-16 C/D Barak jets that were about 30 years old. Croatia will pay 2.9 billion kuna for the planes over a period of ten years.

For more on the Croatian air force, click here.