Brussels (Brussels Morning) The United Arab Emirates will be purchasing 80 Dassault Rafale fighter jets, in the largest international order ever made since the French-made warplane entered production in 2001. The UAE will reportedly be paying around 17 billion euro for the jets and 12 Caracal military helicopters included in the order.
“This is an outcome of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their capacity to act together for their autonomy and security,” a statement from the French presidency said on Friday, during President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the UAE.
UAE was already one of the biggest customers for France’s defense industry, which is one of the two major suppliers for the Arab country, the other being the US. According to defense sources, the new Rafale fleet will replace UAE’s aging Dassault Mirages, but the country still expects to receive its order of US-made F-35 fifth generation stealth jets, as well.
With the latest Rafale order, Emirates are following in the footsteps of their Gulf rival Qatar, which has ordered 36 such planes so far – 24 in 2015, and additional 12 in 2017. Egypt also ordered 24 jets in 2015, and has expanded its order to 30 more earlier this year in a controversial contract, guaranteed by French banks.
India initially considered purchase of 18 French-built Rafales, which would come paired with a technology transfer deal for an Indian company to produce further 108 planes, but the original deal fell through. India finally ordered 36 French-made Rafales in 2015, with no tech transfer clause.
This year, Greece and Croatia signed procurement contracts for Rafale jets, as the first EU and NATO countries to do so, with Greece ordering a mix of 24 aircraft, some new and same previously used by the French Air Force, and Croatia ordering 12 used Rafales.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly hailed the UAE deal as “historic,” and stressed it would contribute to regional stability. “Strategic partnership stronger than ever,” wrote Parly on Twitter. “I am proud to see French industrial excellence at the top.”