WARSAW, Poland — Croatia’s government has made a decision to buy 12 second-hand Rafale F3-R fighter jets from France for the country’s Air Force, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said.

“The purchase of the multirole fighter aircraft will strengthen Croatia’s position as a member of NATO and a partner within the European Union. For the first time, we will reach 2 percent of the GDP allocated to strengthening our defense capabilities,” Plenković said, as quoted in a statement released by his government.

The deal is to be worth some €999 million (U.S. $1.2 billion) and, in addition to the aircraft, it will cover weapon systems, spare parts, logistics and training. Following the cabinet’s decision, Zagreb will proceed to negotiate the contract’s details with Paris.

Under the plan, France is to deliver the first six twin-engine aircraft in 2024, and the remaining six Rafales will be supplied the following year. The delivered aircraft will include 10 single-seater and two twin-seater fighter jets.

Other offers considered by Zagreb included the purchase of F-16 Block 70 aircraft from the United States, Swedish JAS-39 Gripen C/D fighter jets, and F-16C/D Block 30 aircraft from Israel. Through the acquisition, Croatia’s Air Force is aiming to replace its outdated Soviet-designed Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters.

In 2018, Croatia’s Defence Ministry announced it intended to purchase used Israeli F-16s, but in early 2019 the government scrapped the decision and re-launched the tender. Croatian officials told local media the U.S. government accused its Israeli counterpart of unfair competition in the tender.

Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.

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