The Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo, the Croatian Air Force, officially received its first Dassault Aviation Rafale F3R fighter.
The handover took place on October 2, 2023, during a ceremony held at the Mont-de-Marsan Air Base 118 near Bordeaux, southwestern France.
The first aircraft, with the tail number 170, is a twin-seater that will be used by the Croatian Air Force to train its pilots. After the official reception ceremony of the Rafale aircraft in France, the Croatian pilots flew to the Bordeaux Training Center, where further training will be conducted for maintainers and pilots of the Croatian Air Force.
“I want to emphasize that the modernization of the Croatian Air Force will ensure that no one in this part of Europe will have a stronger, more modern and powerful air force,” said Defense Minister Mario Banožić.
In total, Croatia ordered 12 second-hand Rafale F3R fighters, namely 10 single-seater Rafale C and two twin-seater Rafale B fighter jets from the French Air and Space Force, as well as weapon systems, spare parts, logistics, a simulator, and training services. The contracts, valued at just under €1 billion, were signed in November 2021.
The F3R Standard, which reached full operational capability on March 17, 2021, comprises several upgrades, that include the RBE2 AESA radar system, the METEOR long-range air-to-air missile, the TALIOS designation pod, and an update of the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite.
The Dassault Rafale fighters will replace antique MiG-21BisD/UMD jets inherited from the Soviet era. In June 2021, the Croatian government announced that it had selected the French fighters after a competition that pitched it against new Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters, second-hand Israeli F-16 Block 30, and new F-16 Vipers from Lockheed Martin.