Croatia announced it will purchase 12 used French Rafale fighter jets for almost a billion EUR.
The country cited tensions in the region as the reason why it must establish military deterrence. “This will not only give us the ability to avert those who have any aspirations toward our territory but also to become so-called exporters of stability”, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said.
Croatian officials said earlier that the purchase will be worth 999 million euros and will involve 10 single-seater and two 2-seater F3R Rafale twin-engine aircraft. The first six Rafales are scheduled to be delivered in 2024, with the rest due the following year.
The French jets will replace a few still operational Soviet-era MiG-21s — first developed in the 1950s — whose resources expire in 2024. Most of the MiGs were originally snatched from the Yugoslav military which tried to stop Croatia’s secession from the former Serb-dominated federation.
Croatia, which is a member of NATO and the European Union, is in a mini arms race with neighboring Russian ally Serbia, which has recently received six used MiG-29 fighter jets from Russia and four more of the type from Belarus.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic responded to this announcement by saying that Serbia also strengthen its military and hinted at a major procurement of his own. “Those who like to act as if they are the strongest, they still don’t know that something is coming to Serbia soon, and will arrive much sooner than what they are announcing”, Vucic responded.
He didn’t elaborate, but there has for years been talk of Russia supplying Serbia with the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, bringing the sophisticated rockets even closer to bordering NATO-member Croatia.
Russia recently turned down Serbia’s requests to deliver S-400 SAM which forced Serbia to buy Chinese HQ-22 surface-to-air missiles.
Serbia recently announced its intention to buy Boeing T-7A Red Hawk advanced jet trainer hinted its procurement plans for European or American origin fighter jets.
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