French instructors have finished selection of pilots of Croatian Air Force who will, in a year’s time, transfer to France for training on Rafale F3R fighter jets, some of the best in the world. Rafale procurement is the single greatest budgetary item in Croatian defense budget, worth 999 million Euros, and will likely be signed in the late October or early November.
There were doubts about whether US would block the acquisition, or if Croatia will be getting incompletely equipped Rafales. It was confirmed however that Croatian Rafales will be fully equipped, in configuration equal to that used by the French Air Force. Since France is the producer of Rafale, there is no need for TPT (Third Party Transfer) as was the case with Israeli F-16s.
Croatian pilots and mechanics will leave for education in France in early 2023. Contingent will consist of 12 pilots and 80-odd mechanics and engineers. Six pilots, ones already flying on MiG-21s, will be first to leave and will immediately start training on Rafales. They will be followed by six younger pilots who had finished basic education on Pilatus training aircraft. In Croatia, pilots immediately moved from Pilatus to supersonic jet fighters, but in France they will first transfer to Alpha Jet trainer aircraft before “upgrading” to Rafales.
First Croatian pilots, who by then will have status of instructors, will return to Croatia in 2024. by flying Rafales to Croatia. Majority of education will have been carried out in France, while some of it will happen in Croatia thanks to acquisition of the simulator as well as the fact that two out of 12 Rafales will be twin-seaters. Few dozen of French mechanics and engineers as well as flight crews will arrive to Zagreb as well, where they will assist Croatian Air Force in transition to Rafales. Rafales will be based on Pleso.
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