The Croatian government announced its decision to update the country’s air force with the purchase of twelve (used) French-made Dassault Rafale F3R fighter aircraft. The contract is reportedly worth almost one billion Euro.
The Rafale F3R is touted as a multirole fighter aircraft, capable of performing a variety of attack and reconnaissance missions.
In announcing the decision, Croatian prime minister Andrej Plenkovic claimed it was Croatia’s biggest post-independence defense investment, and that Croatia would have “the most advanced combat aircraft in this part of Europe.” Plenkovic also claimed that the Rafale purchase would satisfy Croatia’s NATO-member obligations to spend two percent of GDP on defense.
The first tranche of six Rafale’s is expected to be exported in the first half of 2024.
The Rafale F3R’s are to replace Croatia’s dated fleet of Russian-made MIG-21’s, which are scheduled to be removed from service within the next couple of years.
Analysts have noted that the Croatian government’s decision to buy the Rafales makes sense given what is perceived to be the excessive costs of U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, and the importance of promoting trade ties with fellow EU-member France.