Croatia has placed an order for 12 used Rafale fighter aircraft to replace the Soviet-era MiG-21 Fishbed.
During French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Croatia last week, Defence Minister Mario Banožić and his French counterpart Florence Parly signed a deal under which the Croatian Air Force will acquire 12 second-hand Rafale F3-R fighter jets for nearly 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion).
“The purchase of the planes strategically is what we see as a game-changer for Croatia,” Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at a joint press conference with Macron after the signing ceremony.
“This will not only give us the ability to avert those who have any aspirations toward our territory but also to become the so-called exporters of security … of stability in southeastern Europe,” he said.
Macron said the aircraft deal will strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries and contribute to European defense.
Two Rafales made a low pass over the Croatian capital after the signing ceremony.
France is to deliver the first six twin-engine fighters to Croatia in 2024, and the remaining six aircraft will be supplied the following year.
The acquisition will enable the Croatian Air Force to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters.
The selection of the French aircraft, announced in May, followed a long bidding process that was plagued by delays.
Other offers had included new F-16s from the United States, new JAS-39 Gripen planes from Sweden, and used F-16s from Israel.