Uzbekistan expressed interest in acquiring 24 Dassault Rafale multirole fighters during French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the country on November 2, 2023.
The prospect, first reported by Intelligence Online citing French governmental sources, would mark a significant diplomatic shift for Uzbekistan, a country historically aligned with and armed by Russia.
This interest aligns with Uzbekistan’s aim to modernize its military capabilities, particularly its large fleet of Russian-origin combat aircraft. According to FlightGlobal’s latest World Air Forces directory, the Uzbekistan Air Force operates 38 MiG-29 fighters, 20 Su-27 fighters, and 20 Su-25 ground support aircraft.
Over the years, Uzbekistan has already acquired European military aircraft such as four Airbus C-295W light transport aircraft, plus an array of combat helicopters from Airbus Helicopters.
Nor is Uzbekistan the only Central Asian country interested in phasing out its Soviet-era aircraft. In late October 2023, neighboring Kazakhstan reportedly attempted to auction off more than a hundred combat jets inherited from the Cold War.
Since at least 2021, Serbia, another historical ally of Russia, has been negotiating the purchase of 12 Dassault Rafale fighters to replace its fleet of MiG-29 jets. In February 2023, Aleksandar Vučić, President of Serbia, confirmed that negotiations between the two countries were ongoing, valuing the order at €3 billion.