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Croatia receives its first French Rafale fighter

Photo: Croatian MoD

The handover to the Republic of Croatia of the first of twelve second-hand procured multi-role Rafale combat aircraft took place today, during the official ceremony at the French Air Force base in Mont-de-Marsan, France.

In early 2021, the country made a decision to purchase 12 pre-owned Rafale F3R fighters, built by Dassault Aviation, with an estimated value of around a billion euros.

This deal encompassed not only the aircraft but also included provisions for training and armaments, ultimately choosing the French Rafale fighter aircraft over Saab’s Gripen fighter, and used F-16 fighters from the US and Israel.

The Rafale fighters are poised to replace the MiG-21, whose military operational capability is scheduled to expire in 2024. In December 2022, the Croatian Air Force faced difficulties when one of its MiG aircraft crashed during a scheduled training flight.

As stated by the Croatian Ministry of Defense, after the official reception ceremony of the Rafale aircraft in France, Croatian pilots will fly to the Bordeaux Training Center, where further training for the personnel of the Croatian Air Force’s aviation technical service and pilots will take place.

“I want to emphasize that the modernization of the Croatian Air Force will ensure that in this part of Europe, no one will have a stronger, more modern, and more powerful air force,” said Croatian Defense Minister Mario Banožić.

The F3-R Rafale Standard features an AESA RBE2 radar and the capability to carry long-range Meteor missiles for beyond visual range engagements in all weather conditions.

The F3-R also offers an enhanced ground attack capacity, compared to the previous version, with the ability to control the munition flight time, the laser illumination and the in-flight weapon settings, including for the terminal laser guidance AASM. The aircraft also features an automatic ground collision avoidance system.