UAE inks $15bn worth deals for 80 French-made Rafale warplanes

By Arya M Nair, Official Reporter
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The United Arab Emirates signed a record $15 billion contract for 80 French-made Rafale warplanes and committed billions in other deals as President Mr. Emmanuel Macron kicked off a Gulf tour.

The biggest international order for Rafale planes was declared as Mr. Macron visited Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at the start of the two-day trip which will also include engagements in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The resource-rich UAE, one of the French defense industry’s biggest customers, also signed an order for 12 Caracal military transport helicopters for a total bill of more than $19.2 billion.

Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala sovereign wealth fund has also committed $9 billion in investments in French businesses, while the license of the UAE capital’s branch of the Louvre art gallery was extended for 10 years to 2047.

According to reports, the Emirates was the fifth biggest customer for the French defense industry, spending $5.3 billion between 2011 and 2020. France has faced criticism following the use of some of these weapons in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Iran-backed rebels in a war that has resulted in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

French Defense Minister Mr. Florence Parly called it a “historic contract” which will contribute “directly to regional stability”. The F4 model Rafales, currently under development, will be delivered from 2027.

The new contract will replace the UAE’s 60 Mirage 2000-9 jets bought in 1998 and comes 10 years after failed negotiations held by former French president Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy. By snapping up the fighter craft, built by Dassault Aviation, the UAE is following the lead of Gulf rival Qatar, which has bought 36 of the planes, and Egypt which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 earlier this year.

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