Croatia And Serbia Focus On Air Defence

Croatia and Serbia are two Balkan states that will see increased defence budgets in 2018 with a focus on air defence. Croatia, unlike Serbia, is a member of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Serbia is taking steps to join the EU, but has no desire at present to join NATO and wishes to remain militarily neutral. It is however a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme and continues to have political dialogue and cooperation with NATO on democratic, institutional, and defence reforms. Serbia’s opposition of Kosovo’s declaration as a sovereign and independent state will continue to influence any alliances and membership.

Multi-role combat aircraft have been on Croatia’s procurement agenda for some time and although delayed for 15 years, eventually moved forward in October with proposals from Greece, Israel, Sweden, and the U.S. The winning bid will bolster technological and industrial development, employment growth, and investment. On 7 September, Croatia approved the purchase of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to arm 16 of its Bell OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters donated by the U.S, a deal worth around $3 million. In 2018, the ministry of defence is set to receive around $67 million more, of which $54 million is earmarked for fighter jets.

Whilst Serbia partakes in EU accession negotiations it is also strengthening military ties with Russia, however former Serbian President, Tomislav Nikolić, previously stated that Serbia’s alliance with Russia would not compromise its EU membership aspirations regardless of tensions over Kosovo’s status. Serbia’s relationship with Russia allows for increased military and economic development without the conditions usually imposed by Western economic institutions. These ties were evident when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in December to discuss military cooperation. Possible arms purchases from Russia are six MI-17 helicopters, supplies of Buk-M1 and Buk-M2 missile systems, the delivery of six additional MiG-29 fighter jets, and S-300 air-defence systems (either from Russia directly or Belarus). In October, the Serbian Air Force received six older model MiG-29 fighter jets with Russia indicating the further donation of 30 used battle tanks and 30 armoured vehicles.

In 2018, Serbia’s defence budget is to increase by RSD11.6 billion (around $114 million) or 19.7% to RSD70.5 billion (around $700 million). The increased defence budget will allow for the procurement of the versatile H145M helicopter and the upgrading of ten MiG-29 fighter jets. Further, the ministry of defence is looking to acquire locally produced Lazar 3 eight-wheel drive armoured vehicles and Milos unmanned ground vehicles. The Serbian Army is soon to be equipped with 9mm Glock 17 handguns and 5.56mm FN Minimi light machine guns.

Written by Sylvia Caravotas (Satovarac Consulting) for OIDA

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