Croatia signed a deal for the acquisition of 12 second-hand Rafale from France in 2021.
The first Rafale for the Croatian Air Force was photographed on Sept. 14, 2023 while landing at Base aérienne (BA) 113 Saint-Dizier, France. This is one of the two Rafale B and 10 Rafale C that Croatia purchased in 2021 as part of a government-to-government deal with France, worth 999 million Euro.
The twin-seater aircraft, whose serial number is 171, kept the French plain grey livery, with the addition of the Croatian insignias and a checkered tail like the one of the MiG-21 that will be replaced by the Rafale. FlightGlobal reports the aircraft being delivered are around 14 years old, but have a remaining operational airframe life of roughly 3,800 flight hours each.
According to the info disclosed in 2021, the deliveries were supposed to begin in 2024 with the first six jets, and the remaining six during the following year 2025. According to FlightGlobal, it appears that first aircraft deliveries are expected late this year, with eight Rafales scheduled to arrive in Croatia during 2024 and the remainder to follow in early 2025.
A first cadre of 12 Croatian pilots started training on the Rafale at Saint-Dizier earlier this year, while ground personnel and maintainers are training at Mont-de-Marsan. The Croatian MoD reported that its pilots begun solo missions on the Rafale in May. In total, France will provide instruction for around 80 Croatian personnel over a period of approximately 18 months.
Croatia is the last European operator of the MiG-21 Fishbed, of which only few are still operational out of the 12 total aircraft in service. The second-hand French jets will allow Croatia to replace the obsolete Soviet-era jet, in what has been defined as the largest acquisition program since Croatia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia.