ABU DHABI: 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 largest-ever overseas sale of Rafale jets was sealed on Friday as French President Emmanuel Macron began a two-day trip to the Gulf, during which he will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“This contract cements a strategic partnership that is stronger than ever and directly contributes to regional stability,” the French presidency said in a statement after Macron and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) signed the deal on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020.
The deal will directly support 7,000 jobs in France and guarantee the supply chain of the Dassault Aviation-made aircraft until the end of 2031, a French official told journalists. He also said the UAE contract, which follows deals in Greece, Egypt and Croatia this year, would lead to an increase of the monthly Rafale production.
The F4 model Rafales, currently under development, will be delivered from 2027. Rafale would replace the Mirage 2000 fleet but is unlikely to displace the American-built F-35 as the UAE continues to hedge its security with two main suppliers, France and the United States.
Abu Dhabi also ordered 12 Caracal helicopters. It is the French code name for the H225M, the multi-role military version of the Super Puma.
Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala sovereign wealth fund also pledged eight billion euros ($9bn) in investments in French businesses, while the licence of the UAE capital’s branch of the Louvre art gallery was extended for 10 years to 2047.