UAE signs ‘landmark’ deal to buy 80 French-made Rafale fighter jets

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The United Arab Emirates signed a deal for 80 French-made Rafale fighter jets, the largest international order ever placed for fighter jets, officials said Friday during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The United Arab Emirates, one of the French defense industry’s biggest customers, has also agreed to buy 12 Caracal military transport helicopters, the French presidency said in a statement.

“This is the result of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their ability to act together for their autonomy and security,” the statement said.

France said the deal for the planes and helicopters is worth about 17 billion euros.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly called the deal “historic” in a tweet, saying it contributed “directly to regional stability.”

80 Rafale. Signature of a contract historique avec les Émirats arabes unis. A strategic partnership that is more solid than ever. Fière de voir l’excellence industrielle française au sommet.

– Florence Parly (@florence_parly) December 3, 2021

The Rafale order is the largest ever made internationally for the aircraft since it entered service in 2004.

The agreement was signed by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier while Macron was in talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan on the first day of a visit to the Gulf.

By purchasing the Rafales, built by Dassault, the UAE is following the lead of Gulf rival Qatar, which bought 36 of the jets, and Egypt, which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 earlier this year.

Dassault shares rose 6 percent after the announcement.

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The F4 aircraft models, which are still in a € 2 billion development program scheduled for completion in 2024, will be delivered from 2027.

On-and-off negotiations for Rafale fighter jets have been going on for more than a decade, and Abu Dhabi publicly rejected France’s offer to supply 60 jets in 2011 as “uncompetitive and unfeasible.”

Since then, the Rafale has made a breakthrough in the international market despite competition from American and European manufacturers. It now has six foreign clients, including Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece, and Croatia.

The UAE was already the fifth largest customer for the French defense industry with 4.7 billion euros between 2011 and 2020, according to a parliamentary report.

Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.

Defense sources say the Rafale would replace the Mirage fleet and is unlikely to displace the American F-35, as the UAE continues to protect its security with two major suppliers, France and the United States.

Macron’s visit to the United Arab Emirates is part of a two-day trip to the Gulf that includes stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

( Jowhar with AFP, REUTERS)