This is an incredible day for Croatia as well as for our pilots, who’ve demonstrated the depth of commitment, professionalism, and talent of the Croatian Armed Forces, according to Mr. Banožić
At the French Air Force Base in Mont-de-Marsan, the handover ceremony of the first Rafale multirole combat aircraft to Croatia took place on Monday, 2 October 2023, marking the transfer of ownership between the French Republic and the Republic of Croatia. It will always be remembered as a historical success of the Croatian Government.
Croatia has made an unprecedented historical advancement in enhancing the overall combat power of the Croatian Armed Forces by incorporating fourth-generation combat aircraft into the Croatian Air Force.
The ceremony was attended by Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić, accompanied by the Head of the Office of the President of the Government Zvonimir Frka-Petešić and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of War Veterans Tomo Medved, as well as a delegation of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia, headed by the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Admiral Robert Hranj.
From the French side, the ceremony was attended by a delegation of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence of the French Republic, headed by the Inspector of the Armed Forces for Combat Aviation, General Luc de Rancourt.
Banožić: No one in this part of Europe will have a stronger, more advanced or powerful air force
Defence Minister Mario Banožić emphasised that this is a generational success for which the Government of President Andrej Plenković is accountable, which from the beginning recognised the importance of investment and strengthening all three services of the Croatian Armed Forces. “This day is of exceptional importance for the Republic of Croatia, our Armed Forces, and the Croatian Air Force.
I want to emphasize that the modernization of the Croatian Air Force will ensure that in this part of Europe, no one will have a stronger, more advanced, and more powerful air force,” said Mr. Banožić, thanking everyone who had contributed to the project’s success, from French colleagues to Croatian technicians and pilots.
He expressed his gratitude to the French side for their cooperation and support throughout the entire process. He also expressed his satisfaction that, as a result of this project, France and Croatia’s relations had advanced significantly and that the groundwork had been laid for future, more intense cooperation at the bilateral, European, and multilateral levels.
“This is a great day for the Republic of Croatia and for our fighter pilots who demonstrated how many dedicated, professional, and expert people we have in the ranks of the Croatian Armed Forces. These pilots have been training in France on Rafale aircraft for months. They displayed outstanding skills and professionalism. I want to thank all pilots and aviation technicians for all they showed throughout the training in France. You are the guarantee of the Croatian Armed Forces’ bright future and a vital component of our armed forces that cannot be replaced,” said the minister.
Zvonimir Frka-Petešić: Croatia opted for the best aircraft of European technology
The Head of the Office of the Croatian Prime Minister Zvonimir Frka-Petešić, who is also the co-chairman of the Interdepartmental Commission on purchase of multirole combat aircraft, said that he was honored to greet everyone present on behalf of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, adding that this day marks the culmination of a long and complex process. “I have been leading this process since 2019 together with Admiral Hranj, the Chief of the CAF General Staff. I am glad that the Rafale aicraft was chosen at the end of very methodical, rigorous and objective process since it proved to be superior to others in many respects, and that the Croatian Government accepted and confirmed the Commission’s recommendation, thus opting for the best aircraft of French or European technology,” he said.
Referring to the partnership and alliance between Croatia and France within the framework of the European Union and NATO, he said that the two countries have a high degree of agreement on many issues, from strengthening of defence capabilities to strategic autonomy of Europe. “These special relations between our two countries have now been translated into the French-Croatian strategic partnership which aims to deepen our cooperation on the political, economic, cultural, scientific, administrative, and security and defence level,” he pointed out.
In this sense, he emphasized that for Croatia, the purchase of Rafale aircraft represented a technological breakthrough and a huge step forward not only in modernization, but also in strengthening our defence capabilities: “The power projection capability that we acquire with the Rafale will profoundly change Croatia’s strategic positioning on the geopolitical and military map of Europe. This will enable us to make an additional contribution to strengthening security in our part of Europe, where the air superiority of the Rafale will be unparalleled,” he said.
In the context of the current security challenges caused by the aggression against Ukraine, Frka-Petešić pointed out that the strengthening of NATO’s overall air capabilities is very important today, and in this sense he emphasized that the Croatian Government recognized the trends in a timely manner, doubled the budget of the Croatian Armed Forces in the last seven years and started to invest in the modernization of all services of the Croatian Armed Forces.
Inspector of the French Armed Forces for Combat Aviation General Luc de Rancourt said that he was very honoured to cooperate with the Croatian Government and the Croatian Ministry of Defence. He said that the Rafale aircraft is a powerful and important tool, especially in the current circumstances of changing security paradigms caused by the war in Ukraine. He also praised the Croatian pilots and technicians for their effort and excellent training they are conducting in France together with their colleagues from the French Air Force.
A demonstration of the capabilities of the French VBA Rafale was held and official gifts were exchanged as part of the handover ceremony. Minister Banožić received a model of the VBA Rafale with Croatian markings from the French, and he presented a framed pilot’s cap and a pilot’s insignia of the Croatian Air Force and Air Defence to French General Rancourt.
After the official reception ceremony of the Rafale aircraft in France, the Croatian pilots will fly to the Bordeaux Training Center, where further training will be conducted for employees of the aviation technical service and the Croatian Air Force pilots.