While Serbia had just announced that it had been discussing a possible Rafale purchase for a year, it is also discussing a Eurofighter purchase. No official purchase is planned yet, since Serbia is discussing with France and the United Kingdom, respectively, for what is still only a possible purchase of combat aircraft.
On April 11, Serbian President Vučić publicly announced that Serbia was negotiating with Dassault and France for a possible purchase of 12 Rafale fighter jets and was, surprisingly for such a small country, seeking to purchase another 12 Western fighter jets. On April 16, in a television interview, Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Nebojša Stefanović, revealed that Serbia was also in discussions with the United Kingdom to acquire Eurofighters, confirming Serbia's desire to have a fleet of different aircraft. This increase in Serbia's power does raise some questions, however, especially economically, since it will no longer be a question of maintaining old generation aircraft. The Minister also pointed out that the Serbian Air Force relies on end-of-life aircraft:
- G-4 for training but able to perform air policing missions.
He estimates that in 10 years, the entire fleet of aircraft will no longer be able to fly (maintenance too expensive, pilot safety, etc.). The first measure concerns the early retirement of the MiG-29s. The negotiations are not only about the purchase of aircraft but also about spare parts, simulators, pilot and ground personnel training, ammunition,... and even future options for a modernization of the purchased aircraft.
The thorny point of this contract remains Serbia's ambiguous position: it still retains ties with Russia, seems to be approaching the European Union while opening up to the Chinese sphere of influence (article on the delivery of Chinese equipment to Serbia). Thus, many of Serbia's public investments have been financed with large Chinese loans, thus limiting Serbia's independence from China. European manufacturers must therefore ensure that their technology cannot fall into the hands of Chinese industrialists, thus explaining the slow and complex negotiations.
Finally, these negotiations could erase potential Asian markets for the Rafale and Eurofighter if these sales were to be misperceived by countries wishing to counter China's rise in power in Asia.
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