x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 February 2018

UAE sets requirements in deal for 60 French fighter aircraft

The country moves a step closer towards its multibillion-dollar purchase of 60 Rafale jet fighters in what would be the first sale of the aircraft outside France.

A Dassault Rafale fighter jet performs during the 48th Paris Air Show.
A Dassault Rafale fighter jet performs during the 48th Paris Air Show.

The UAE has moved a step closer towards its multibillion-dollar purchase of 60 Rafale jet fighters in what would be the first sale of the aircraft outside France. The UAE military submitted its technical and operational specifications for the multipurpose fighters to the French government, but no deal has yet been signed. Price negotiations are ongoing, the state news agency, WAM, reported yesterday.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is encouraged by the progress, a release from his office stated. "This announcement ... is excellent news for France and for its aeronautics industry. It confirms the excellent qualities of the Rafale," he said. "It is also the sign of the strong links that join France and the UAE." A French official, quoted anonymously by WAM, said the deal should be finalised before the end of the year - possibly as part of the Dubai Air Show in November.

The price for the aircraft has not been disclosed by either side but estimates put the deal at US$8 billion (Dh29bn) to $11bn. The UAE Armed Forces currently operate squadrons of American F-16 fighters and French Mirage fighters. Both aircraft were largely designed in the 1970s. The Rafale, a twin-engine plane that can handle stresses of up to 11 times the force of gravity, was designed in the mid-1980s and introduced in 1990. So far, the French military is the only user.

Kuwait is also was looking at buying up to 24 Rafales, the Kuwait News Agency said. The negotiations are part of broader moves toward closer relations between the UAE and France. Last month, Mr Sarkozy inaugurated Camp Peace, a French military base comprising three locations: Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed port area, the Al Dhafra military airport and a training camp for ground forces at an undisclosed location. Several hundred French troops will be stationed at the base.

jhenzell@thenational.ae