Serbia decides to acquire French Rafale fighters over Soviet MiG-29s.
Serbia decides to acquire French Rafale fighters over Soviet MiG-29s.

BELGRADE, SERBIA –Belgrade intended to acquire six MiG-29 fighters. Belgrade hoped to improve the combat power of its air force with the prospective procurement of six new aircraft. Currently, Serbia operates eleven Soviet MiG-29 fighters.

However, Serbia is about to give up Soviet fighters. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that maintenance of the MiG-29s had become impossible. The war between Ukraine and Russia prevents buying almost anything military from Russia.

For this reason, Vucic declared that Belgrade is pursuing an alternate option. The Serbian president says French Dassault Rafale fighters are the finest alternative. Hence, Serbia will send France a letter of request (LoR).

The French fighter is the preferred option to avoid buying an American one. Due to its historical conflict with the United States, Serbia cannot apply to purchase a US-made aircraft now.

The French Rafale is the flagship of French aviation. First introduced over 22 years ago, the Rafale watches over the skies over Croatia, India, France, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

It is unknown whether Serbia will request the acquisition of the armed Rafale. It may be claimed that the selection of Belgrade at this time is extremely prudent since it will have access to the acquisition and integration of the Meteor, the best air-to-air missile in the world.

The French fighter can be developed in a single or two-seater version. Two Snecma M88-4e turbofans power the fighter, 50.04 kN [11,250 lbf] thrust each dry, 75 kN [17,000 lbf] afterburning. It can reach a maximum flight speed of nearly 2,000 km/h. Its supercruise speed is Mach 1.4.

The Rafale has a combat autonomy of 1,850 km. Its g limits range from +9 -3.6 [+11 in emergencies]. The aircraft has a 125-round 30 mm GIAT 30/M791 autocannon. Its air-to-air weaponry includes the MBDA MICA EM, IR and Magic II missiles, and the Meteor missile.

The aircraft’s air-to-ground capability should not be underestimated. Beneath the wings are MBDA Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG and MBDA Apache missiles. They are also considered among the best of their kind in the world.

Rafale is one of the few aircraft capable of carrying nuclear-tipped missiles. It is worth noting that it is an ASMP-A nuclear missile, even if Belgrade is unlikely to receive it.

The interest of Serbia in Rafale has been another blow to Russian military exports over the past year. Although there is not as much Russian influence in Serbia as some imagine, Belgrade’s relationship with Moscow has always been excellent.

There is no exact information about the current combat capability of the Serbian MiG-29SM. It is clear that the aging Soviet fighters need maintenance, and Serbia cannot afford to rely solely on them at a time when Russia is concentrating its military production capacity on the war with Ukraine.

Serbia talked about acquiring new fighters in September last year for the first time. So the first rumors suggested a choice between the MiG-35 or the Chinese JF-17.