The US government has blocked an Israeli sale of advanced variant F-16 fighter jets to Croatia valued at 500 million dollars; an angered White House has reportedly stated that the arms deal is “dishonest”.
The arms deal was to see Israel sell twelve of its own advanced Barak 2020 model F-16 fighter jets to Croatia. Beyond the baseline US-built F-16 model, the Barak 2020 upgrade offers a range of modern electronic equipment – all produced by the Israeli arms industry – that enhances the aircraft’s offensive and defensive capabilities.
For some years, Croatia has run a open-to-all competition to acquire modern fighter jets to replace its aging MiG-21 fleet. The US, France, Sweden and Israel were just some of the aspiring competitors.
Following announcement of the block, the White House expressed disappointment over that fact that Israel did not seek US approval in selling US-built jets (that were originally donated to Israel) with their advanced Israeli-made electronic equipment to Croatia.
It is yet to be seen if Israel successfully challenges the block, or if it is forced to reach a compromise with the US or even if Croatia is pushed to seek-out another seller as part of the Balkan country’s ongoing effort to modernize its air force.