Croatia has been a member of NATO since 2009. Supported by economic growth, the country has started a modernization of its armed forces, with the largest funds allocated to the air force. Croatia’s defense budget for 2023 is $1.12 billion, increased by $35 million from the previous year. The government plans to further increase the budget to $1.165 billion in 2024, and to $1.176 billion in 2025.
In 2021, the Croatian government decided to purchase twelve used Dassault Rafales F-3R from the French government for 999 million euros. The first jets are expected to arrive in 2024 to replace the outdated MIGs. Besides the fighter jets purchase, Croatia’s largest ongoing defense modernization projects include upgrading the Bradley infantry fighting vehicles donated by the U.S. government, procuring new Black Hawks, constructing a new corvette for the Navy, and upgrading military cybersecurity capabilities.
The most developed and largest part of the Croatian military is the army. The Croatian military has over 15,000 personnel: about half in the land army, 10% in the navy and 10% in the air force. This number is in line with the Long-Term Development Plan 2015-2024 of keeping staff numbers around 15,000. The plan also defines personnel as the military’s key asset and emphasizes the importance of training and education.
Most of Croatia’s defense equipment is imported from Western countries. However, there are also some advanced defense equipment manufacturing companies in Croatia, including HS Produkt (firearms manufacturer, over 90% of their handguns are exported to the United States), Sestan-Busch (ballistic protective gear), and DOK-ING (demining equipment). Croatian defense manufacturers are gathered in the Croatian Defense Industry Competitiveness Cluster.
Croatia plans to modernize outdated systems and platforms in all segments of the military. Key projects include:
Procuring modern short-range air defense systems
Upgrading the radiocommunication network
Procuring Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
Upgrading naval RADAR
Ministry of Defense (Croatia)
Croatian Defense Industry Competitiveness Cluster (HKKOI)
Adriatic Sea Defense & Aerospace Exhibition (ASDA), Split, Croatia