Croatia’s first six of 12 Dassault Aviation Rafales were transferred to Velika Gorica near Zagreb on 25 April.

Flown from Dassault’s Merignac site in the south of France by Croatian pilots on a roughly 1h 40min transfer, the arrivals included four single-seat Rafale Cs and a pair of two-seat B-model examples. They will be operated by the Croatian air force’s 191 Squadron.

“The first six Rafales guard Croatian skies from today,” notes Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic. “The security of our country has been raised to a level it has never been before,” he adds.

“The arrival of new fighter jets is a significant step forward towards the modernisation and strengthening of the Croatian air force in the protection of airspace, and a key factor in preserving Croatia’s security in the future,” the nation’s defence ministry says.

Acquired following an agreement signed in November 2021, Zagreb’s new fighters have been transferred from the French air force’s inventory. They will replace aged Mikoyan MiG-21s.

“The next Rafales will arrive from the end of 2024, to form a complete squadron by mid-2025,” Dassault says. Its remaining examples will all be single-seat fighters.

“The mastery with which the Croatian air force carried out this first ferry [flights] testifies to the excellence of its pilots and personnel, and brilliantly illustrates the quality of Croatia’s cooperation with France,” says Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier.

“Dassault Aviation is fully committed to completing the full integration and logistic support of the Rafale into the Croatian air force, which will contribute to ensuring Croatia’s sovereignty and enable it to successfully carry out its operational missions within NATO,” he adds.