At the French Air Force Base in Mont-de-Marsan, the handover ceremony of the first Rafale multirole combat aircraft to Croatia took place on Monday, 2 October 2023, marking the transfer of ownership between the French Republic and the Republic of Croatia. It will always be remembered as a historical success of the Croatian Government. Croatia has made an unprecedented historical advancement in enhancing the overall combat power of the Croatian Armed Forces by incorporating fourth-generation combat aircraft into the Croatian Air Force. The ceremony was attended by Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožic, accompanied by the Head of the Office of the President of the Government Zvonimir Frka-Petešic and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of War Veterans Tomo Medved, as well as a delegation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia, headed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Admiral Robert Hranj.
From the French side, the ceremony was attended by a delegation of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence of the French Republic, headed by the Inspector of the Armed Forces for Combat Aviation, General Luc de Rancourt.
The acquisition of Rafale aircraft underscores the commitment to this partnership and the joint efforts to enhance security in the region. As part of the handover ceremony, a demonstration of the Rafale’s capabilities was held, and official gifts were exchanged. Minister Banožic received a model of the Rafale with Croatian markings, while he presented a framed pilot’s cap and pilot’s insignia of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence to French General Rancourt. Following the official reception ceremony in France, Croatian pilots will continue their training at the Bordeaux Training Center, further enhancing their skills and expertise, and solidifying the Rafale’s place as a vital asset for the Croatian Armed Forces. The arrival of the first Rafale fighter aircraft marks a transformative moment for Croatia, enhancing its defense capabilities and strengthening its position in the ever-evolving landscape of European security.
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an “omnirole” aircraft by Dassault. Introduced in 2001, the Rafale is being produced for both the French Air Force and for carrier-based operations in the French Navy. The Rafale has been marketed for export to several countries, and was selected for purchase by the Egyptian Air Force, the Indian Air Force, the Qatar Air Force, the Hellenic Air Force, the Croatian Air Force, the Indonesian Air Force and the United Arab Emirates Air Force. The Rafale has been used in combat over Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria.
Croatia received a proposal for 12 used Rafales F3Rs in September 2020 as part of a bid to replace the Croatian Air Force’s MiG-21s. The total package offered costs €1 billion (including weapon systems, spare parts, logistics and training), and competed with new F-16V Block 70, Israeli used F-16C/D Barak raised to ACE configuration, and Saab Gripen. On 28 May 2021, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovi? announced the purchase of 12 used Rafale F3Rs. Croatia has signed for the acquisition of 12 secondhand Dassault Rafale fighters from France, following approval for the purchase earlier this week. Two contracts were finalised during a ceremony in Zagreb on 25 November 2021, one for the aircraft and the other covering logistics and support over a three-year period. The country’s government on 24 November approved the budget allocation for the purchase over the 2022-2024 period. Under the government-to-government deal, Croatia will receive an initial batch of eight aircraft in 2024, with the remainder following in 2025.