October 2, 2023 – A historic handover ceremony of the first Croatian Rafale multipurpose fighter is taking place today at the Mont-de-Marsan base of the French Air Force. Members of the French Air Force and the Croatian Armed Forces have already carried out their final preparations.
As the Croatian Ministry of Defense stated on their website, the attendees of the ceremony include the Minister of Defense Mario Banožić, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Office Zvonimir Frka-Petešić, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Croatian Veterans Tomo Medved, as well as the delegation of the Croatian Armed Forces led by Admiral Robert Hranje.
This is the first of 12 Croatian Rafale planes, a twin-engine multipurpose fighter plane of the 4.5+ generation from the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
As the Ministry of Defense stated in their press release, by putting the Croatian Rafale multipurpose fighter jet into operational use, Croatia maintains its sovereignty in the national airspace, becomes a possible regional guarantor of the airspace security of the countries in the region, and sets new standards for equipment.
The Croatian Government decided on the need to preserve the ability to protect its airspace with its own fighter planes at the session held on July 4, 2019, in accordance with the conclusions of the Defense Council of June 28, 2019, and the Defense Committee of the Croatian Parliament of July 3, 2019. To that end, it was decided to start the process of procuring a multipurpose fighter plane, with consideration of the required military capabilities and financial possibilities.
Updated Fleet for the Croatian Air Force
By introducing the Croatian Rafale multipurpose fighter jet, the current capabilities and potential of the combat component of the Croatian Air Force will be preserved and significantly increased, the overall combat power of the Croatian Army will be substantially increased, and the long-standing tradition of combat aviation in Croatia will also be preserved.
The Croatian Air Force is thus to receive another necessary component for the establishment of a high-quality NATO-integrated anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system while at the same time maintaining the tradition of fighter (combat) aviation.
The contract for the procurement of the Croatian Rafale multipurpose fighter jet is a strategic decision and creates a long-term political and economic connection between the state and the manufacturing company.
The introduction of such a high-tech tool indirectly opens up opportunities for the development of research, scientific, and industrial segments of society at all levels, from schools and colleges, to institutes and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs. By deepening the strategic partnership with France, defense and wider economic-industrial cooperation are ensured, both between the two countries and at the level of the European Union. This supports concerted efforts in the preservation and development of European defense industries.
Considering the total value of the project, the procurement of the Rafale multipurpose combat aircraft represents the biggest step forward in the development of capabilities since the nineties and the largest investment in the Croatian Armed Forces since Croatia gained its independence. It will significantly contribute to national security and multiply the overall combat power of the Croatian Army many times over.
The Croatian-French Agreement
By the decision of the Croatian Government dated May 28, 2021, France’s offer was determined to be the most favorable. On November 25, 2021, a Technical Agreement and three contracts were signed with the companies Dassault Aviation, MBDA France, and Safran Electronic & Defense, the payment of which will be carried out over a six-year period from 2021 to 2026.
The total value of the Technical Agreement and all three Contracts is EUR 999,068,493, i.e. EUR 1,152,496,307, with estimated price indexation costs and VAT. The financial resources will be provided in the budget of the Croatian Ministry of Defense.
In accordance with the contracts, 12 used Rafale F3-R planes (ten single-seaters and two two-seaters) are being procured from France, in the same standard as the planes used in the French Air Force.
Along with the 12 planes, there is also a flight simulator that will enable a complete range of training and validation of tactics, ground and test equipment, spare parts, and comprehensive support from authorized representatives of the manufacturer’s companies in France and Croatia. The full support is contracted until the last quarter of 2026, as well as a 12-month warranty for the delivered aircraft, engine, equipment, and spare parts.
According to expert projections of use in the Croatian Air Force, the procurement of these fully NATO-compatible aircraft is sufficient for the next 30 years and more, and the operational use of Rafale aircraft in the French Air Force is planned until 2060.