Croatian Air Force officially took possession of its first Rafale F3R fighter jet during a ceremony at Mont-de-Marsan Air Base in France. This acquisition is part of a larger deal signed in November 2021, where Croatia agreed to purchase 12 second-hand Rafale F3R jets, including two two-seaters, from France for a total of just over one billion euros. This marks Croatia’s largest defense investment since its independence in 1991.
The Croatian Ministry of Defense has emphasized that the acquisition aims to replace the aging fleet of MiG-21Bis/UM aircraft currently in service. The Rafale jets are expected to serve as a powerful deterrent for the next 30 to 40 years, significantly strengthening Croatia’s international position and airspace protection. The move also aligns Croatia more closely with NATO standards.
The Dassault Rafale is a French twin-engine, canard delta wing, multirole fighter aircraft designed for a variety of missions including air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence. The F3R variant is equipped with the Thales TALIOS laser designation pod, which allows for day and night bombing up to 70 km away. It can also carry the Meteor air-to-air missile and features an Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (AGCAS). The aircraft has a minimum landing speed of 115 knots and can fly as slow as 15 knots during training missions.
Croatian pilots have undergone extensive training by the French Air & Space Force at the Rafale Transformation Squadron (ETR) 3/4 “Aquitaine,” based at Saint-Dizier Air Base. The training program includes theoretical and practical phases, with several flights per week and a well-defined mission preparation program.
The first Croatian Rafale, coded 170, will be operational by early 2024, along with five other aircraft. These jets will be assigned to the 191st Fighter Squadron based in Pleso, near Zagreb. Infrastructure for the new aircraft is still under development, and additional training for Croatian technicians and pilots is planned.