AIRVG 2024 airshow: Croatian Mig-21 sunsets as Air Force introduces Rafale

Croatian Mig21 Retirement
Croatian Rafale and Mig-21 aircraft take off from Franjo Tuđman International Airport Zagreb during AIRVG 2024 - Aviation Day.

Under the auspices of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, the City of Velika Gorica organized the AIRVG 2024 - Aviation Day in Velika Gorica, on May 11, 2024, an aviation event which was held at the Dr. Franjo Tuđman International Airport in the area of so-called of the old terminal.

The purpose of this event was to promote aviation in Croatia and Velika Gorica as "City of Aviation", and the emphasis of this year's edition was on the modernization of aviation and promoting calls for military pilots, aeronautical technicians and other air traffic professions.

With this organization, the City of Velika Gorica continues the "Aviation City" project, as part of which a "Charter of Friendship" was signed between the City of Velika Gorica and representatives from the aviation industry operating in the area of ​​Velika Gorica. The signatories are the Croatian Air Force, Zagreb International Airport, Croatian Air Navigation Control, Aviation Technical Center Velika Gorica, Croatia Airlines, Trade Air, Aviation Technical School "Rudolf Perešin", Polytechnic Velika Gorica and Aeroclub Velika Gorica.


On Saturday May 11th, 2024, a small airshow was held on the terrain of the old terminal of Zagreb Airport. That old terminal was available because the new terminal on the northern side of the airport became operational in 2017. Only 10.000 visitors were allowed on this location.

A static show with nearly all aircraft types of the Croatian Air Force was setup on the tarmac before the old terminal, with access from 11:00 onwards. As the Zagreb civil traffic would not be hampered, the dynamic show was scheduled during gaps in the civil traffic.

The dynamic airshow started at 15:00 with a show of the Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) demoteam with 6 PC-9Ms, followed by a demo of the Zlin 242L basic trainer of the Croatian Air Force.

Croatian Mig21 Retirement

Next in the program was a CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) demo of a Mi-171SH picking up a downed pilot while two OH-58D Kiowas flew alongside protecting the CSAR mission.

Then the highlight of the show started, the aim for all the visitors: the demo of the old Mig-21 and the new Rafale. Both jets took off and the Mig-21 made some fast passes along the crowd. Then the two jets joined up for a formation pass and the Mig-21 came in for landing, while the Rafale made another pass before landing. The two Croatian jets taxied together along the crowd line, showing the past and the future of Croatian Military aviation.

Croatian Mig21 Retirement

Next in line was a demo of the Bell 206 helicopter, while the Krila Oluje (Wings of Storm) demoteam gave another presentation to finish the AIRVG 2024 airshow.

Participating aircraft

The AIRVG airshow consisted of a static show and a dynamic show.

Croatian Mig21 Retirement


Croatian Mig21 Retirement

The Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-21 is an iconic fighter/interceptor aircraft designed in the mid 1950s by the soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich design bureau. More than 11000 Mig-21s in various configurations were produced throughout the 70 years of its existence.
After the creation of the Croatian Air Force (Hrvatsko Ratno Zrakoplovstvo) in December 1991, the main Croatian fighter was the Mikoyan-Gurevich Mig-21, some aircraft were obtained via defectors from the former Yugoslavian Air Force inventory and some were obtained in 1993. After upgrades in cooperation with Romania and it’s LanceR upgrade program for the Romanian Mig-21s, the lifespan of the remaining Mig-21s was over and a successor was needed to replace this iconic plane designed in the 1950s.


On November 25th, 2021, a contract was signed between the Croatian government, the French Air Force and the French Dassault aircraft manufacturer. 12 existing Dassault Rafale aircraft (ten single-seat C F3-R and two two-seat Rafale B F3R) were taken from the French inventory and these aircraft were prepared for delivery to Croatia. During the following years, the pilots and the mechanics were trained to operate the Rafale aircraft. And on April 25th, 2024, the first six Rafales were flown from Bordeaux (France) to Zagreb airport, where the Rafales were welcomed by a water shower from the local fire department. During 2024/2025, the remaining 6 aircraft will be transferred to Croatia. After the arrival of the Rafales, they took over the air defense mission from the Mig-21s,

Photos: Joris van Boven
Text: Joris van Boven and Alex van Noije

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