All of the Fishbeds are based at Zagreb-91st Pleso’s Air Base and are flown by a single unit known as the “Fighter Squadron.”
The fantastic video in this post (which also includes cool GoPro cockpit footage) was recently produced by the Croatian Air Force and shows MiG-21 planes in action at the 91st Air Force Base.
The fighter fleet of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defense (HRZ I PZO) consists of twelve MiG-21s, eight of which are single-seat MiG-21bisDs and four MiG-21UMD twin-seat trainers. All of the Fishbeds are based at Zagreb-91st Pleso’s Air Base and are flown by a single unit known as the “Fighter Squadron.”
The planes are employed to provide QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) services and can cover the whole Croatian airspace. The QRA is currently only operational during daylight hours and is part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defense System (NATINAMDS), which is housed in Torrejon’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC).
According to Chris Lofting of Air Forces Monthly magazine’s May issue, the Ukrainian company Odesaviaremservis Aviation Repair Plant (OARP) in Odessa recently refurbished and updated all 12 MiG-21s. Five MiG-21bisDs were scheduled to be shipped to Yemen, but they were never delivered, and the planes were finally purchased by the Croatian Air Force after being parked outside the Odessa plant for several years. However, the Croatian daily newspaper Jutarnji list reported on March 22, 2016, that an investigation into the recently purchased aircraft is underway: Lofting indicated that “Croatian sources claim the Odessa Plant painted Algerian MiG-21 construction numbers on the airframes but left the original c/n plates in place, showing that at least four of them are ex-Bulgarian! It’s unclear what this means for their future.”
However, the MiG-21bisD/UMD aircraft upgrade was mainly focused on the installation of new navigation and communication systems that not only meet NATO and ICAO requirements but also allow the Fishbeds to safely operate within civilian airspace. The “D” suffix stands for the Croatian word Doraden, which means modified.
Croatia is to replace its aged Soviet-built MiGs as soon as possible, with a decision on which fighter will replace the Cold War-era Fishbeds expected by the end of 2016. The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Dassault Rafale, and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 are among the aircraft being evaluated by the Croatian Air Force.