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Russia’s Defense Industry Loses “Loyal Customer” as Serbia Opts for French-Made Rafale

If the Rafale fighter jet acquisition contract between France and Serbia materializes. It will mark a significant shift in the Balkan nation's defense policy. Until now, the Serbian Air Force has primarily operated Russian-made fighter jets, such as the MiG-21 and MiG-29.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — Russia’s defense industry is set to lose another loyal customer as Serbia has agreed to acquire 12 new Rafale fighter jets from the French company, Dassault Aviation.

In a statement released by the official website of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, it was announced that the two nations expect to sign the fighter jet acquisition contract within the next two months in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron.

“We also held meetings with Dassault Aviation concerning other cooperative endeavors. Additionally, we will sign contracts that will further enhance national security,” the statement added.

The announcement coincided with Vucic’s visit to Paris, where he also met with Macron.

The acquisition of the 12 Rafale fighter jets by Serbia is expected to cost over US$3 billion (RM13.5 billion).

Rafale
 Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron (right).

 

Serbia reportedly began considering the acquisition of the French-made Rafale fighter jets two years ago, following neighboring Croatia’s acquisition of 12 used Rafale jets.

Local media reported that the meeting between Macron and Vucic in Paris touched on defense, energy, and technology issues.

 If the Rafale fighter jet acquisition contract between France and Serbia materializes within the next two months, it will mark a significant shift in the Balkan nation’s defense policy.

Until now, the Serbian Air Force has primarily operated Russian-made fighter jets, such as the MiG-21 and MiG-29, and the procurement of the European-made jets is seen as part of the Balkan nation’s efforts to enhance its aerial capabilities.

Apart from Russian-made fighter jets, the Russian Armed Forces also use various Russian and Chinese defense assets, including the “Pantsir S-1” air defense system, S-125M, and the Beijing-developed FK-3.

Rafale
 Serbia operates the Russian-made “Pantsir S-1” air defense system and China’s FK-3.

 

Serbia also operates six CH-92A armed drones along with 18 guided missiles acquired from China.

President Vucic is reported to be a strong supporter of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and made an official visit to Beijing last year, where he met with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping.

Should the acquisition contract between Serbia and France be signed, the Balkan country will become the eighth nation after Egypt, Croatia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India, Indonesia, and Greece to acquire the Rafale fighter jets.

Last month, Dassault Aviation announced it would increase the production of Rafale fighter jets to three units per month by 2024, up from two units due to rising customer demand.

 As reported by the French newspaper Le Tribune, Dassault Aviation’s CEO Eric Trappier stated that the company could produce four Rafale fighter jets to meet the increasing domestic and international demand.

Rafale
“Rafale”

 

“We are moving from a critically low production rate of less than one aircraft in 2020 to three. Currently, we are at a rate of two,” he said.

 Dassault Aviation is preparing to ramp up Rafale fighter jet production to three units per month.

This year alone, Dassault Aviation has received orders for 18 Rafale jets, with 60 orders in 2023 and 92 in 2022.

In addition to increased orders from foreign nations, Dassault Aviation is also facing rising demand from the French Air Force itself, which is purchasing additional Rafale fighter jets.

In early January, France confirmed it would spend US$5.5 billion (RM24.75 billion) to acquire 42 Rafale fighter jets. — DSA

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