Friday, 14 February 2020

Air Force: Defects Identified in 10 Overhauled Helicopters

ZAGREB, February 14, 2020 - Croatia's Air Force Commander Michael Križanec on Thursday said that defects identified on four Mi-171Sh transport helicopters had been removed and that a fifth helicopter out of the ten 171Sh overhauled helicopters, which is now located on the island of Krk, would be repaired on Friday.

Addressing an extraordinary news conference, the general admitted that experts had identified defects on all the ten helicopters that had been overhauled in Russia.

"The defects on four helicopters have been removed and they are usable. The fifth will be repaired tomorrow. Another five helicopters are undergoing regular overhauls," said Križanec.

The rest of the fleet of transport helicopters are ready for all missions and training. So far, we have conducted 1,100 flight hours and we did not have any indication of any hazard existing. Helicopters have been grounded before. Those checks are conducted every 300 flight hours and we only have 200 hours so far. If they had not warned us, we would have identified the defects ourselves," Križanec told the press conference in the Defence Ministry.

He added that the "Russian Helicopters" company had last night already admitted that it was their responsibility and that all the works and all the material would be charged to the company. Križanec ordered that the 10 helicopters be grounded and told the press conference that that situation was not that alarming.

Last week, the defence ministry said that the overhaul of the helicopters concerned was performed in a professional manner by the Aeronautical Technical Centre (ZTC) in Velika Gorica and by the "Russian Helicopters" company from Russia.

The news portal reported that 10 Mi-17Sh helicopters had been grounded due to frequent defects however Križanec explained that the helicopters were not actually grounded but were undergoing regular technical checks and are out of use.

"Yesterday we were informed of a technical defect that went unnoticed during the overhaul. We contacted the Russian manufacturer and then made some conclusions and took the necessary steps," Križanec explained.

More news about the military can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Defence Ministry Plans Purchase of Combat Aircraft, Helicopters, Fighting Vehicles

ZAGREB, February 7, 2020 - The Defence Ministry's financial plan for 2020 envisages the purchase of multipurpose combat aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters, the construction of a coastal patrol vessel and the purchase of Bradley fighting vehicles.

Under the plan, the Military Academy will be transformed into a defence and security university to be named after Croatia's first president, Franjo Tuđman.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said at a government session on Thursday that the value of the financial plan was 5.3 billion kuna, an increase of 264 million from 2019.

Slightly less than 1.5 billion kuna of the funds is intended for public procurement procedures and close to 800 million kuna for financial obligations from previous years, namely multiannual financing and purchases abroad.

"These are huge funds and it is very important to ensure that all procurement procedures are transparent, and I will insist on rational and cost-effective spending," said Krstičević, adding that this was the fourth year in a row that his ministry did not have a procurement procedure marked as confidential.

Krstičević said that all procurement procedures were aimed at improving soldiers' living and working conditions, equipping the Army and securing the necessary level of operation of its equipment.

The minister said that 39 contracts, worth around 457 million kuna, would be signed with 30 companies in mid-February.

"The contracts are a significant contribution to Croatia's defence industry which employs more than 5,000 people. By signing the contracts at the beginning of the year we are giving domestic companies security and helping them plan their annual production and providing them with the necessary references to sell their products on foreign markets. The value of the contracts is around HRK 140 million higher than in 2019," he said.

He thanked members of the parliamentary committee on defence, headed by Social Democrat MP Igor Dragovan, for excellent cooperation, recalling that the committee gave its opinion on purchases worth more than five million euros before a procurement procedure was launched.

"Last year the committee gave a unanimously positive opinion on the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters. Four brand new helicopters will arrive in Croatia in 2022 and they will be used for both military and civilian purposes," said the minister.

As for other current procurement projects, Krstičević mentioned a project to buy multipurpose combat aircraft, of which an interdepartmental commission is in charge, saying that he expected concrete offers in May and a final decision on the aircraft to be purchased by the end of the year.

The Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff, General Mirko Šundov, said he was glad about the increase in the military budget and investments in the army's modernisation, as well as about the fact that Croatian soldiers were equipped by Croatian producers.

Dragovan expressed satisfaction that the ministry had published its procurement plan for the seventh consecutive year, stressing that that practice was setting a good example for other bodies of public authority.

"I don't see any reason why other bodies of public authority would not do the same and present their annual plans to the public. It would definitely raise awareness of the need for transparency and responsibility," he said.

The chair of the national council in charge of monitoring the strategy for the prevention of corruption, Željko Jovanović, commended the ministry's transparency, stressing that transparency was one of the main instruments in the fight against corruption.

More news about the Ministry of Defence can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

President Requests Investigation of Croatian Navy Commander for Speeding

ZAGREB, February 2, 2020 - President and Armed Forces' Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Saturday requested an investigation into the case of Croatian Navy Commander Ivo Raffanelli, who was seen to be in a car that was driven at an excessive speed on Friday.

The request for the investigation and disciplinary action followed after on Friday media outlets released footage of a Defence Ministry car being driven at the speed of more than 200 kilometres per hour on a motorway in southern Croatia.

The footage shows that the car was driven by an official chauffeur and that Raffanelli was a passenger. He later explained that he was returning from the funeral of Major Marin Klarin in Zadar to his town of Tučepi for his urgent private reasons. The Rear Admiral Raffanelli says he assumes responsibility and is ready to accept sanctions if it is established that the car was moving at excessive speed, according to a press release the ministry sent to the media.

Pilot Klarin is one of the two victims who recently died in a helicopter crash off šibenik.

More news about Croatian military can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Air Force Investigators in Contact with US Army

ZAGREB, January 29, 2020 - Croatian Air Force Commander General Michael Križanec said on Tuesday that the Air Force had contacted the US Army and the Bell company and was given instructions on how to preserve evidence from the Kiowa Warrior helicopter that crashed into the sea off Šibenik during a training exercise on Monday, killing two pilots on board.

Speaking at a news conference at the Zemunik air base, Križanec said that the instructions were about how to preserve certain evidence, how to handle it and where to send it.

He added that it was up to the investigating team and the chief Air Force investigator to decide when and where certain physical evidence would be sent to obtain good analyses and information.

The investigating team has found the flight recorder, which was at the bottom of the sea for more than 24 hours.

The head of the team investigating the accident and chief Air Force investigator, Colonel Mario Počinok, said that the team would use all resources of the homeland security system in its work.

"The US side has offered help and we are not ruling out that we will accept it," he said.

"The helicopter was flying very low, at a height of between zero and 100 metres. The accompanying helicopter was between 150 and 200 metres behind the helicopter that crashed. It will not be easy, but we think that we will manage to reconstruct the event," Počinok said, adding that there were no video recordings of the flight in the two helicopters.

The head of the Operations Command Centre, General Krešo Tuškan, said that three larger parts of the helicopter wreckage were retrieved yesterday and that the remaining fragments were expected to be retrieved on Wednesday.

More military news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Helicopter Wreckage and Body of Second Pilot Found

ZAGREB, January 28, 2020 - The body of a second pilot of the Croatian Air Force helicopter that crashed into the sea off the city of Šibenik on Monday was found on Tuesday morning, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The wreckage of the Kiowa OH-58 D helicopter and the body of the pilot Tomislav Baturina were discovered at 8.10 am on Tuesday by Croatian Navy divers using a Remus underwater vehicle.

The helicopter, with two pilots on board, crashed during a training flight in the channel between the island of Zlarin and the mainland town of Zablaće around 11 am on Monday. The body of one of the pilots, Major Marin Klarin, was retrieved shortly after the accident and a search was launched for the second pilot, First Lieutenant Tomislav Baturina.

An investigation into the circumstances of the accident is under way.

More news about Croatian military can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Purchase of Military Fighter Jets Delayed Again?

ZAGREB, January 11, 2020 - The purchase of fighter jets for the Croatian Air Force will be decided by the next government, the Jutarnji List daily of Saturday reports, noting that there is no information on the financial framework of the project and that the commission in charge of procuring the jets had still not discussed where pilots would be trained.

On 10 January 2019 the Director-General of the Israeli Defence Ministry, Udi Adam, confirmed officially in Zagreb that Israel could not sell Croatia its F-16 Barak jets as it could not obtain Washington's approval for the deal.

A year later, by all accounts, Croatia is further away from buying a new generation of combat aircraft than it was a year ago, says the daily.

"I don't have the information as to why the selected countries have still not been sent requests for final offers," said the chair of the parliamentary defence committee, Igor Dragovan, who is also a member of the government's interdepartmental commission in charge of procuring the planes.

Anđelko Stričak, another member of the commission, expressed hope that at its next meeting the commission would discuss when to send the request.

Even though the government's spokesman still claims that the decision on which planes will be bought will be known by the middle of the year, a few days ago Dragovan said that the incumbent government would not be the one to decide on the new planes as there was no time for that, says Jutarnji List.

If the commission were to send its request for final offers today, the bidders would need five to six months to compile their offers, which would be followed by an analysis of the bids, to last several months. And that is the time of the campaign for parliamentary elections, when the Andrej Plenković government will be a caretaker government which should not make any crucial decisions such as the purchase of military aircraft.

That means that the process of decision-making and contracting is shifted to the next government and the year 2021, which puts the Air Force in a difficult position, says the daily.

The Air Force has only eight fighter jets, of which four-five are operational. Also, the lifespan of its MiG jets starts to expire in 2023, when their landing will start. That was why the end of 2023 had been announced as the final deadline for the arrival of new planes, which now seems impossible.

It is also very questionable which of the bidders is capable of delivering at least some of the total of 12 planes to be bought, in a period of less than two years, says the daily.

More news about the fighter jets acquisition can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Defence Minister Krstičević Meets with EU Foreign Affairs and Security Chief

ZAGREB, January 10, 2020 - As part of a visit by the EU College of Commissioners to Zagreb, Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Friday, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

It was the first meeting between Krstičević and the new EU foreign affairs and security chief, at which the Croatian minister presented the priorities and activities of the Croatian EU presidency in the area of defence and security.

Krstičević highlighted four key priorities: further implementation, consolidation and coherence of the EU defence initiatives (PESCO, CARD, military mobility and the European Defence Fund), strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and transatlantic relations, strengthening the research dimension of defence with emphasis on the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, and strengthening EU efforts with regard to security and defence in southeastern Europe.

Borrell wished Croatia and Krstičević a successful EU presidency and expressed his satisfaction with the meeting.

The meeting focused on current security challenges in the Middle East and future joint cooperation, specifically within preparations for an informal meeting of EU defence ministers scheduled for March 4 and 5 in Zagreb.

Krstičević also announced that as part of the Croatian EU presidency a conference on EU-NATO cooperation, co-organised by the Croatian and German ministries of defence, would take place in Split.

More news about Croatia and the EU can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Seven Croatian Soldiers Return from Iraq

ZAGREB, January 9, 2020 - Seven soldiers of the Croatian Army who had been relocated from Iraq to Kuwait returned to Croatia on Thursday morning, the Croatian Defence Ministry said.

The seven members of the second Croatian contingent were engaged in the NATO mission in Iraq and were transferred from Baghdad to Kuwait in line with a decision by NATO to relocate its mission from Iraq to Kuwait.

A total of fourteen members of the Croatian Army have been relocated to Kuwait, with seven of them completing their tour of duty.

The Croatian soldiers were relocated from Iraq, together with soldiers from several NATO member states, following Iranian attacks on American forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone attack and the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

During a government session on Thursday morning, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković confirmed the successful evacuation of the Croatian troops out of Iraq.

More news about Croatian Army can be found in the Politics section

Monday, 30 December 2019

2nd Croatian Contingent Departs for NATO Mission in Lithuania

ZAGREB, December 30, 2019 - The 2nd Croatian 188-strong contingent was seen off from the Knin-based barracks to NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania on Monday.

The ceremony was attended by Defence Minister Damir Krstičević as the president's envoy, as well as Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mirko Šundov, Lithuania's Ambassador to Croatia Jurate Raguckiene, France's military attache Brigadier Fabrice Duda along with family members and the local community.

In his address at the ceremony, Krstičević said that he was convinced the Croatian troops would conduct their duties in Lithuania successfully and show all their military know-how.

General Šundov said that this would be an opportunity for the troops to obtain new know-how and strengthen their capabilities as well as promote the Croatian Army and Croatia's defence industry products.

Croatia and Lithuania, together with other member states (of NATO) preserve the alliance so that it remains united in areas of freedom, peace, security and common values, Ambassador Raguckiene said thanking Croatia's troops on behalf of the Lithuanian people for their contribution in preserving joint security.

The NATO-run Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania is led by Germany and in addition to Croatia, also troops from the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Lithuania take part in it.

More news about Croatia and the NATO can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

NATO General Thanks Croatia, Its Troops for Serving in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, December 21, 2019 - The commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces - Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller, on Friday thanked Croatia and its troops for serving in Afghanistan.

Miller met Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević at the mission's HQ in Kabul, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Krstičević, on an official visit, and Miller talked about Croatia's contribution to the Mission, NATO's plans for the Mission's future and the security situation in Afghanistan.

Miller thanked the Croatian people, saying that serving in Afghanistan was important for all NATO states, for partnership within NATO, and that it was important to protect everyone.

He also thanked Krstičević and Croatia for their dedication and the committed service of its troops in Afghanistan.

"Croatia is one of the 36 countries participating in the mission in Afghanistan. Together with our partners, we are contributing to the establishment of international peace and security, we are counselling and mentoring Afghan forces so they can assume responsibility for peace and security in their state," Krstičević said, adding that he was proud to hear Miller praising the Croatian troops.

Krstičević and Miller extended greetings to the 11th Croatian contingent in Afghanistan and their families for the upcoming holidays.

More news about Croatia and the NATO can be found in the Politics section.

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