United Arab Emirates purchases record 80 French Rafale jets in $ 19 billion arms deal

United Arab Emirates purchases record 80 French Rafale jets in $ 19 billion arms deal

The United Arab Emirates and France have signed a $ 19 billion arms deal that will see the Gulf state acquire 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters.
The biggest overseas sale of Rafale jets was concluded on Friday as French President Emmanuel Macron embarked on a two-day trip to the Gulf, during which he will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

“This contract cements a strategic partnership stronger than ever and directly contributes to regional stability,” the French presidency said in a statement after Macron and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) have signed the agreement on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020.

Macron’s visit comes at a time when the Arab Gulf states have expressed uncertainty over the US focus on the region even as they seek more weapons from their main security ally.

French President Emmanuel Macron (center left) and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (center right) receive the agreement [Thomas Samson/AFP]

The French leader has forged good relations with MBZ with investments flowing between the two countries.

The agreement will directly support 7,000 jobs in France and guarantee the supply chain for aircraft manufactured by Dassault Aviation until the end of 2031, a French official told reporters.

He also said that the UAE contract, which follows deals in Greece, Egypt and Croatia this year, would lead to increased monthly production of Rafale.

The shares of Dassault Aviation SA, the maker of the Rafale, rose by more than 9%.

Franco-Emirati ties

The F4 Rafales model, currently under development, will be delivered from 2027.

In seizing the fighter jet, the UAE is following the lead of its Gulf rival Qatar, which bought 36 of the planes.

On-off negotiations for Rafale fighter jets lasted more than 10 years, with Abu Dhabi publicly rejecting France’s offer to supply 60 Rafale jets in 2011 as “uncompetitive and impractical”. Abu Dhabi already has French-built Mirage 2000 fighter jets.

Defense sources have said the Rafale will replace the Mirage 2000 fleet, but that it is unlikely to replace the US-built F-35, as the UAE continues to cover its security with two main suppliers, France and the United States.

The deal could nevertheless be seen as a signal of impatience as the US Congress hesitates to approve an F-35 deal amid concerns over the UAE’s relationship with China, including the prevalence of Huawei 5G technology. in the country.

Abu Dhabi has also ordered 12 Caracal helicopters. It is the French code name for the H225M, the versatile military version of the Super Puma.

People walk at Louvre Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on November 6, 2017[File: Satish Kumar/Reuters]

France has close ties with the United Arab Emirates and is one of its main arms suppliers, but it is under increasing pressure to review sales due to the conflict between a Saudi-led military coalition and the United Arab Emirates. Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has become one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

“France is moving forward with these sales despite the United Arab Emirates playing a leading role in the atrocity-marred military operations carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” Human Rights Watch said in a press release.

“However, the United Arab Emirates ranks 5th among France’s arms clients between 2011 and 2020. The French president should denounce human rights violations in these three countries.

French fighter jets and personnel are also stationed at al-Dhafra Air Base, a key facility outside the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, which is also home to several thousand US troops.

A few months after Macron’s election in 2017, he traveled to the United Arab Emirates to inaugurate the Louvre Abu Dhabi, built as part of a $ 1.2 billion deal to share name and art. of the world famous museum in Paris.

In September, Macron welcomed the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to the historic Fontainebleau Castle outside Paris, which was restored in 2019 thanks to a donation from the United Arab Emirates of 10 million euros (11.3 millions of dollars).

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala sovereign wealth fund also pledged eight billion euros ($ 9 billion) of investment in French companies, while the license of the UAE capital branch of the art gallery du Louvre has been extended for 10 years until 2047.


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