Serbia plans to purchase Rafale multipurpose fighter jets from France, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Monday, which experts saw as the latest sign of Belgrade distancing itself from its traditional military supplier and ally Russia.
President Vucic on Saturday also, in a way, confirmed recent reports claiming that Serbia is interested in acquiring 12 Rafale fighter jets, manufactured by Dassault Aviation, from France.
“We have been negotiating the purchase of 12 new Rafales for already a year, and are negotiating with another country for the purchase of 12 secondhand Rafales,” the president said.
Serbia, now a candidate to join the EU, has been under pressure from Europe to scale back its links to Moscow. It has voted against Russia three times at the United Nations since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February.
Milan Karagaca of the Belgrade-based Center for Foreign Policy and a former military attache to NATO, said: “The fact that the planes are made by France could indicate Serbia … has disconnected itself from Russia’s military technology, .. politically it is a signal of approaching closer to the EU.”
After Croatia bought from France 12 used Rafale jets in November 2021, Vucic hinted that Serbia could also decide to acquire such jets.
In 2019 Serbia bought France’s Mistral surface-to-air missiles and in 2016 it acquired helicopters from Airbus.
Croatia, which is an EU and NATO member and Serbia’s wartime foe from the 1990s, also operates Rafale jets.
“The Rafale is a remarkable plane, I would like if we could buy new ones,” Vucic was cited as saying in December.
Serbia’s military is largely based on ex-Soviet technology. It operates MiG-29 fighters and MI-35M helicopter gunships and its air defences are mainly comprised of Russian missile systems and radars. Serbia’s ground forces also use Soviet-made T-72 tanks and armoured personnel carriers.
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