Croatia to buy French air defence system Mistral for 72 mln euro

Croatian Army MIG-21 jet fighter taking off from Zagreb's airport
A Croatian Army MIG-21 jet fighter takes off from Zagreb's airport in this April 4, 2008, REUTERS/Nikola Solic//File Photo

SARAJEVO, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Croatia's government on Friday said it would buy French air defence system Mistral for 72 million euros ($75.84 million) as part of the NATO member's efforts to modernise its air force.

The decision follows the purchase last year of 12 French Dassault Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth 999 million euros, to replace Croatia's squadron of Russian-made MiG-21 jets that dates from the period of the former Yugoslavia, only a few of which are still operational.

"The circumstances that occurred with the Russian aggression on Ukraine and the crash of a drone in Zagreb have shown it is important and necessary to adjust priorities and plans for equipping the Croatian army," Defence Minister Mario Banozic told fellow ministers.

He did not specify when the deal would be completed.

In March, a Soviet-era reconnaissance drone that carried an aerial bomb crashed in the capital of Zagreb after entering Croatian air space from neighbouring Hungary, without causing any harm to residents.

On Tuesday, a two-seater MIG-21 plane crashed during a military drill in an uninhabited area of forest in northeastern Croatia. Both pilots were rescued.

Croatia joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2009 and the European Union in 2013.

($1 = 0.9493 euros)

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Barbara Lewis

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