Croatia’s outgoing MiG-21 and brand new Rafale to fly at AIRVG2024 airshow

The Croatian Air Force will be showing off equipment old and new during an airshow at Zagreb International Airport in May.

Photo: City of Velika Gorica (via Facebook)

The third edition of AIRVG will take place in front of Zagreb’s old terminal building on the 11th May 2024, with up to 10,000 people expected to attend. The highlight of the show will be the participation of various MiG-21s; a MiG-21bis D is expected to perform in the flying display, while at least one example each of the MiG-21bis D, MiG-21R and MiG-21 UMD are listed as static display participants.

Croatia is the last remaining MiG-21 operator in Europe; over the past few decades, the air arm has repeatedly purchased upgraded second- or third-hand MiGs from other nations as a cheaper alternative to either upgrading its own fleet or investing in newer aircraft. However, it now appears that possibly as few as four jets could be active, and although no official retirement date has been published, the type is widely expected to finally be withdrawn from active use in the coming weeks. This means AIRVG is very likely to be the last airshow appearance of a military-operated MiG-21 in Europe.

Croatia’s MiG-21s are being replaced by the single-seat C3R Rafale EC and twin-seat C3R Rafale DC – second-hand Rafale F3R B and C model jets formerly used by the French Air & Space Force. The first six of an eventual 12 Rafales arrived in Croatia on Thursday 25th April, and the type is slated to appear in both the flying and static display at AIRVG.

Also appearing on the official flying display list are the Krila Oluje aerobatic team flying six PC-9Ms, as well as the Zlin 242L, Bell 206B, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior and Mi-171Sh. Additionally, three helicopters (an Mi-171Sh, OH-58D and UH-60M) will participate in a Combat Search & Rescue scenario.

The show will be open to the public from 12:00-18:00, with the flying display running from 15:00-18:00. The showground will be located on the General Aviation apron next to the old passenger terminal, and displays will be intermixed with regular commercial air traffic.

Due to the airshow’s location on an active commercial airport, access is being tightly controlled. A limited run of 5,000 free tickets sold out in just over two hours, and 350 spotter tickets sold out in around a day. Children can attend without a ticket, but adults who missed the brief ticket sale period will not be able to enter the airshow grounds. Instead, they will be able to watch from prescribed locations around the airfield fence, but only if they have secured a spotting permit from the airport operators and inform officials of their presence once they have arrived.

Most of the crowdline fence inside the showground will be reserved for spotters, with general admission visitors being located behind them. As well as getting a prime spot to watch the flying, spotters will also be able to access the static displays 45 minutes before gates officially open.

Visitors are encouraged to use public transport to get to the show, and a free bus service will run, linking the showground to central Velika Gorica. Regular city buses will operate to Zagreb itself. Limited parking is available, however those arriving by car should note that the service road linking the showground to the new terminal building will be closed except to buses and pedestrians. There are no special parking provisions for spotters.

Food and drink is not permitted within the showground itself, but will be on sale in a “chill out zone” on the land side of the terminal building.

This is the third edition of AIRVG, but the first to be held at an operational airport. Previous AIRVG events, held in 2017 and 2018, were located at the Croatian Aeronautical Technical Centre, one mile to the southeast.

AIRVG2024 is being organised jointly by the Croatian Ministry of Defence, Zagreb International Airport and the City of Velika Gorica, the self-styled Croatian “City of Aviation”. The city is home to Zagreb’s international airport and its associated air base, as well as the country’s Aeronautical Technical Centre on a seperate campus nearby. It intials – ‘VG’ – also give the airshow its name.

We will be covering AIRVG 2024 in an episode of our Airshow Dispatches series, which is coming soon to our YouTube channel.