Croatia’s government would buy French Mistral air defence system for 72 million euros ($75.84 million) as part of the NATO member’s efforts to modernise its air force. The decision follows the purchase last year of 12 French Dassault Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth 999 million euros, to replace Croatia’s squadron of Russian-made MiG-21 jets that dates from the period of the former Yugoslavia, only a few of which are still operational. With the purchase of new equipment, Croatia’s defence budget will exceed 2% of GDP for the first time and Croatia has taken first place among 30 NATO countries in allocating for equipment and modernisation.
In March of this year, a Tupolev Tu-141 Strizh Soviet reconnaissance drone crashed in the capital city of Zagreb after entering Croatian air space. Before it crashed, it had flown over Romania and Hungary. There were no casualties. The drone was carrying an aerial bomb, but fortunately did not cause any harm to residents. This incident highlighted the need for Croatia to improve its air defense capabilities, particularly in the face of potential threats from neighboring countries. Norway sent 100 Mistral systems to Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mistral (Missile Transportable Anti-aérien Léger, Transportable lightweight anti-air missile) is a French infrared homing short range air defense system manufactured by MBDA France (formerly by Matra Defence and then Matra BAe Dynamics). Based on the French SATCP (Sol-Air à Très Courte Portée), the portable missile later to become the Mistral began development in 1974. It was initially deployed in 1988 for the first version (S1), 1997 for the second version (M2), and 2019 for the third version (M3). The Mistral entered production in 1989 and is now deployed in various forms by 37 armed forces of 25 countries.
Mistral is a short-range air defence (SHORAD) missile system that can be used from vehicles, surface ships, and helicopters, as well as in a portable configuration. When used in the MANPADS role the “Mistral” missile is transported in a transport and launch container (MPC) together with “friend or foe” interrogator, power source and tripod with its sighting devices. They are then to be operated by a pair of crew as commander and the shooter. There are also launch units that allow the missile to be fired from armoured vehicles, ships or helicopters. To defeat flares ejected from the rear of a targeted aircraft, proportional navigation using a gyro as a reference.