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Croatian officials welcome the arrival of Rafale fighter jets purchased from France

The first six of a dozen Rafale multipurpose fighter jets purchased by Croatia from France landed at an air force base near Zagreb on Thursday with a welcome ceremony attended by top officials.

The deal, signed in 2021 with French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, was said to be worth over a billion euros. In addition to the aircraft, the contract covered weapon systems, spare parts, logistics and training.

France is to deliver the remaining six jets in 2025. The acquisition will enable the Croatian Air Force to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters.

The Defense Ministry of Croatia, a NATO member, said the arrival of the aircraft from France piloted by Croatian crews is a historic moment for the country.

“This is a historic moment for Croatia, we realized our dream,” Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said at the ceremony, moments after the six Rafales landed on the runway in succession.

The fighters are equipped with advanced attack-navigation systems, the French manufacturer had said.

In what appeared to be a mini arms race in the Balkans, Serbian populist President Aleksandar Vucic last month also announced plans to purchase 12 new Rafale fighters in a deal that was reportedly worth 3 billion euro. The potential deal was not confirmed by French officials.

The acquisition of Rafale jets would allow Serbia to modernize its air force, which consists mainly of Soviet-made MiG-29 fighters as well as aging Yugoslav combat aircraft.

Russia has been a traditional supplier of military aircraft, including combat helicopters, to Serbia, which has refused to join international sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

The rapid arming by the Serbian military during the past few years has been worrying some of its neighbors. Serbia, a European Union candidate, is almost completely surrounded by NATO member countries.

Source: AP News