July 25, 2021

Croatia to buy 12 Rafale fighter jets

Croatia will buy twelve used Rafale fighter jets built by Dassault Aviation to modernize its air force. The amount of the contract reaches 999 million euros, announced the Croatian Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic.

The government “Considered that the offer from France was the best and decided [d’acheter] twelve Rafale multirole combat aircraft ”, he said, adding that, “For the best price, Croatia gets the best priced and best equipped aircraft”.

The French aircraft were in competition with new American F-16s, used Israeli F-16s and new Swedish Gripens to replace its aging fleet of Russian Migs. This is the largest arms order since the War of Independence of the Former Yugoslav Republic of the 1990s.

Croatia has decided to favor another member country of the European Union, which the Balkan country joined in 2013, four years after joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Some have wondered about the advisability of acquiring this type of expensive equipment at a time when Croatia – a country of 4.2 million inhabitants, very dependent on tourism – has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. . Defense Minister Mario Banozic retorted that wanting to keep modern aviation was not a matter of“A fad” or a desire to have “New toys”. “These planes are quite simply the basis of our security”, he told the media.

Croatia’s decision “Illustrates the strengthening of strategic links between France and Croatia”, welcomed Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces. After Greece, which acquired eighteen Rafale in January, “The fact that a European country chooses the offer of another European country is a strong sign that goes beyond the symbol”, said the minister in a press release.

The contract should be signed within a few months and the first aircraft, currently in service with the Air Force and Space, delivered from 2023-2024.

Born from the desire to find a replacement for the French Mirage 2000 and the British, Italian and German Tornado, the Rafale A demonstrator completed its first flight in 1986. It has been used by the French Navy since 2004 and the Air Force. since 2006 and replaced seven types of combat aircraft from previous generations.

Difficult take-off for exports

It has long struggled to export. Several potential clients, notably in the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Brazil, did not respond. Its use in combat from 2007 in Afghanistan, then in Libya in 2011, in the Sahel since 2013 and in the Levant has contributed to its international promotion. It was not until eleven years after its entry into service that it found a buyer abroad.

Egypt bought twenty-four in February 2015, a contract with an option for twelve additional Rafale which had not been exercised. In 2015, three months after Egypt, Qatar in turn ordered twenty-four copies, then twelve more in December 2017. In 2016, India bought thirty-six copies which began to be delivered in 2020 .

In early May, Egypt announced that it was placing an order for thirty additional Rafale fighter jets from France.

The aircraft is also in competition in Switzerland (thirty-six to forty aircraft), in Finland (up to sixty-four aircraft). The United Arab Emirates and Indonesia (36 aircraft) are also interested.

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In India, Dassault Aviation hopes to win tenders for one hundred and ten Rafale for the Indian Air Force and fifty-seven for the Navy. A possible new order for 36 Rafale by New Delhi is also regularly mentioned in the Indian press.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters