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​Serbia's Been Struggling to Buy Rafale Instead of MiG-29 for Two Years Now to No Progress

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Serbian MiG-29 fighter jets / Open-source illustrative photo
Serbian MiG-29 fighter jets / Open-source illustrative photo

The main reason seems to be of political rather than strictly business character

Back in April 2022, Serbia first announced its intention to purchase Rafale fighter jets from France to replace the MiG-29 received from russia. Belgrade anticipated signing a deal on 12 new aircraft instead of 14 aging MiG-29s.

At that time, Serbia already had in its portfolio an example of successful defense cooperation with France stemming precisely from the intent to find an alternative to "friendship" with the russian federation. In October 2021, the Serbian Ministry of Defense agreed with Airbus on the supply of two C295 transport aircraft to replace the An-26, moreover, it happened right after the russians did not fulfill their promise to supply Serbia with additional transport aircraft.

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Rafale multirole fighter of the French Air Force / Defense Express / Serbia's Been Struggling to Buy Rafale Instead of MiG-29 for Two Years Now, No Progress Because of Politics
Rafale multirole fighter of the French Air Force / Open-source illustrative photo

Once again, Serbia announced it wanted to buy the French Rafale fighters in February 2023. The statement was made by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on the sidelines of the IDEX 2023 defense exhibition.

As reported, the Rafales from France would cost Serbia EUR 3 billion in total costs. That is while Belgrade was viewing an increase in the overall annual defense budget to 2.2 billion dollars as the maximum affordable measure to at least minimally cover the defense needs of the entire national military.

On the other hand, Serbia was facing a dilemma: since the beginning of russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022, buying components for available MiG-29s became difficult. Therefore, the price factor no longer matters.

Serbian MiG-29 / Defense Express / Serbia's Been Struggling to Buy Rafale Instead of MiG-29 for Two Years Now, No Progress Because of Politics
Serbian MiG-29 / Open-source illustrative photo

In late March 2024, Serbian president Vučić once again stated his country was still interested in seeing Rafale in its fleet, as he was inspecting one of the country's airfields. He also emphasized that if Rafale turned out not viable as an option, Belgrade would look into other opportunities.

However, from what Vučić said, the Rafale deal is currently hanging due to France's political stance, particularly because of the views on the status of Kosovo. In addition, Paris doesn't want to sell Meteor air-to-air missiles to Serbia, which is a non-NATO country.

French Rafale fighters / Defense Express / Serbia's Been Struggling to Buy Rafale Instead of MiG-29 for Two Years Now, No Progress Because of Politics
French Rafale fighters / Open-source illustrative photo
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