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SEPTEMBER 2020

Croatian MiG-21 Fighter Jets Not Operational after ‘Repair’ in Ukraine

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Only four MiG-21 fighter jets out of 12 combat aircraft, purchased by Croatia from Ukraine, can be considered combat-ready.

Croatian MiG-21 Fighter Jets Not Operational after ‘Repair’ in Ukraine

Photo: Cropix / Ranko Suvar

The Croatian military police has conducted an investigation into the purchase and repair of the MiG-21 fighter jets in Ukraine, the Jutarnji Vijesti newspaper reported.

According to the newspaper, exploitation of the MiG-21s in Croatia was accompanied by difficulties. Only four fighter jets out of 12 combat aircraft can be considered combat-ready, the Croatian military authorities reported several days ago.

The newspaper noted that recently, the country’s President publicly announced the need to investigate the procedure of purchase and overhaul of the MiG-21s. The biggest problem is defects that every day appear on the fighter jets after the undergoing of major repairs in Ukraine. General Milan Sundov told the President that since July 2015, when 12 planes, repaired in Ukraine, were handed over to the country’s air force, the number of failures reached 300.

As journalists found out, the most common failures are faults of a hydraulic power system, navigational equipment and communications gear, wastages of fuel and oil, as well as hydraulic system leaks. In addition, there were two engine failures during flights. One of the problems became visible to everyone during the recent visit of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic to an airbase in Pleso, where the fighter jets were covered with fuel and oil streaks.

Five representatives of the Odesaviaremservis aircraft repair plant have been working at the Pleso airbase along with technicians of the Croatian Air Force for more than a year and a half, as, according to the contract, the warranty period is still going on. These specialists unsuccessfully try to bring the warplanes into combat readiness. According to the newspaper, ten days ago, during a take-off of one of the fighter jets, the fluid power actuators on one of its wings stopped to operate. A pilot managed to safely land the plane.

According to a newspaper’s source in the country’s Defense Ministry, Croatia is still able to control its airspace, but the state’s air force is not ready to quickly fulfill all the tasks, assigned to it. “This is a nightmare. This not only threatens the national security, but also calls into question the safety of our pilots,” the source said. For this reason, the country considers a reserve option of conclusion of an agreement with a NATO member country, which, if necessary, will be able to control the Croatian airspace.

According to the Croatian Jutarnji List newspaper, due to the terrible technical condition of the fighter jets, the military police intensively investigate into the reasons of the aircraft’s undergoing major repairs in Ukraine. The military police presented a report to the country’s Defense Minister, which points to a number of suspicious actions during the contract’s conclusion. The investigation was started in 2016.

According to unofficial information, there is doubtful documentation regarding five aircraft, which were purchased by Croatia from Ukraine. It turned out that four fuselages of the MiG-21, which the Ukrspetsexport company used in the sold warplanes as capital repaired ones, actually had expired operation time, though it was stated that their residual operation time reaches 850 hours.

The investigation also showed that engines of two out of five aircraft have unknown origin, and their serial numbers do not correspond to the numbers, indicated in the accompanying documentation. It is unknown what elapsed time they have.

In addition, a fact of giving and receiving a bribe in the amount of 10,000 euros during a tender for the repair of the MiG-21s was proved. The Zagreb’s district court approved an indictment against members of the technical committee of the Defense Ministry, Ivana Covica and Ivice Josipovica, the owners of the Aeropartner company, and others. The both accused admitted their guilt. However, now, the investigation allows suggesting that there may be more persons, responsible for this substandard repair.

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