18 Mar 2014 By Igor Salinger - FG
Croatia's defence ministry says the current turmoil in Ukraine “has nothing to do” with a roughly five-month delay in returning its Mikoyan MiG-21bisD fighters and UMD-model trainers that are being overhauled in Odessa, instead citing “technical problems”.
These include issues with integrating new navigation and communication equipment from Czech supplier CLS, along with “digital to analogue signal conversion”.
Being performed under a €13.9 million ($19.3 million) deal forged through Ukraine's Ukrspecexport organisation, the project includes the overhaul of the seven aircraft and the provision of five additional single-seat examples, which are being refurbished and equipped to Croatian air force specifications.
Assistant defence minister and former air force commander-in-chief Viktor Koprivnjak says the service's original five aircraft are “finished, except for a problematic navcomm device”, while its two UMDs are “about 95%” complete. A solution to the issue is believed to have been found, a military source says, meaning the first fighters could be returned in the coming weeks.
The air force on 21 February took delivery of its first two Mil Mi-8MTV/-17 transport helicopters to have been overhauled under a co-operation agreement between repair facilities in Sevastopol, Motor Sich in Ukraine and a technical facility in Velika Gorica, Croatia.
A second batch of four helicopters scheduled to undergo the same process this year are unlikely to be sent to the same facility in Crimea, due to tensions in the region, although a final decision will not be made for around two months.
Meanwhile, the Croatian defence ministry has signed a deal to train 16 student pilots from Oman for 150h each, using its Pilatus PC-9s. Also involving two Omani flight instructors, the activity will be performed at the air force flight academy in Zadar.