I am pretty sure it got discussed here already, but wouldn't it be overall more efficient and cost effective to out-source the air policing? Because
- In a war scenario, a fleet of 12-16 A/C wouldn't make any difference, so easy of a target
- upholding a fighter force has huge cost associated
- and in such a tiny country you basically crossed the country in 10min with a fighter, so no operational viable area
Outsource it to Austria, e.g.. They would benefit from added flying hours for their crews and Croatia could use the money for far better things...
In a number of critical respects - and IF
played properly - no. The first issue is of geography; it takes far more than 10 minutes to cross Croatia even on maximum reheat. Zeltweg (the Austrian AF's main base) to the southern tip of Croatia at its border with Montenegro is 900 km as the crow flies (avoiding the airspace of Bosnia & Herzegovina). Even for a Typhoon at full blow, that's a tall order in an air policing intercept scenario. Conversely, if the fighter wing is re-based back to Zadar (which appears to be the plan), no part of the country is more than 300 km away - and at airliner cruising speeds, even that's tight for a proper interception.
The second reason is that shutting down the fighter wing would mean wasting an immense amount of hard-won experience - including in actual combat operations against an adversary of superior numbers, something that only a handful of Europe's biggest air forces can claim to have. As a result, the standard of flying is still pretty high, and there have been multiple instances of Brick-21s wiping the floor with more modern Western machinery in joint exercises. Given that, even upgraded, Croatian MiGs have an avionics fit that a Cessna 172 wouldn't be seen with, that says a lot about the quality of the flight crews. If Croatia has this very valuable (and VERY, VERY expensive) asset at its disposal, why throw it away and pay someone else to do the job?
All of these issues - the people, the geography, the cost - can be satisfied while keeping the wing operational (such as using supersonic armed trainers like the F/A-50); given these new developments and still more turbulence in the current government, there's still hope this can be achieved
Thanks for your reply, much appreciated.
You are right about Austria of course, that was a bit of a misplaced hipshot by myself.
However, I am still not convinced of the actual value of keeping an own fighter wing, esp. considering opportunity cost.
If it is tight in any case intercepting any airliner, where lies the value of being "just" be able to do so. If I understand that correctly (and I might not), the moment you have been able to intercept you are at the edge of your airspace with the airliner already being VERY close to leave Croatia. Where is the advantage of being able to accompany the last few minutes?
All other scenarios (misusing an airliner to attack 9/11 style) strike me as not interceptable anyway.
Regarding the experience: I have no doubt to believe there are highly skilled pilots flying the MiGs. However, those combat proven surely slowly come to an end of their duty time and with every generation, by default, experience cannot be transferred by more than a small amount.
Sooner or later, CroAF will be on the standard peace time level, more sooner than later, in my opinion.
From that point on, a dozen aircraft, regardless of type, wouldn't make a difference one way or the other.
Hence, the billions might be better spent on education, infrastructure or even the ground based military.