France seals first deal to export Rafale fighter jets

France announced on Thursday it will sell 24 Rafale fighters plus a frigate to Egypt in a €5.2 billion ($5.9 billion) deal that marks the first foreign contract for the multi-role combat jet.

France seals first deal to export Rafale fighter jets
The Rafale fighter jet, 24 of which will be sold to Egypt in the first export deal. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will travel to Cairo on Monday to sign the contact with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a ministry source told AFP.

"The Rafale fighter jet has won its first export contract," French President Francois Hollande said in a statement issued by his office.

"The signing will take place in Cairo on February 16. I have asked the defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to sign on behalf of France," he added.

The military hardware would "allow Egypt to increase its security and assume its full role in the service of regional stability," Hollande said.

The Rafale jets are built by French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and have been used by the French air force in Libya and Mali.

France has also used the jets in Iraq as a part of the US-led fight against Islamic State militants.

Landing the contract will come as a relief to Dassault Aviation, which had yet to secure a single foreign sale after nearly three decades of development that cost tens of billions of euros.

Dassault Aviation has been locked in negotiations to sell 126 Rafale jets to India since 2012, without making much progress.

In another setback, France in 2013 failed to convince Brazil to buy its Rafale jets, losing out to Sweden's Saab in a multi-billion dollar contract.

Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier told Le Figaro daily last week that the company had "several prospects (for sales) in the Middle East which are very much live."

Talks are ongoing in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates among others.

He added that work continued on the "very complicated" India negotiations.

The French government initially agreed to buy 11 Rafales a year for its air force to help the programme. But in a bid to curb public spending it has since moved to scale back the number to only 26 planes over a six-year period.

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France hits jackpot with Qatar fighter jet deal

French group Dassault Aviation is poised to sign a multi-billion-euro deal with Qatar for 36 of its Rafale fighter jets, the presidency and sources said Thursday, the third foreign order this year.

France hits jackpot with Qatar fighter jet deal
France has struck a deal with Qatar for 24 Rafale fighter jets. Photo: AFP

Having struggled for years to sell any of its Rafale jets abroad, Dassault has recently scored several lucrative, high-profile contracts with Egypt, India, and now Qatar.

The agreement, which will be signed on May 4 in Doha in the presence of French President Francois Hollande, includes a firm order for 24 jets with an option on 12 other planes, sources close to the negotiations told AFP earlier.

Earlier this year, Egypt bought 24 Rafales in a €5.2-billion($5.8-billion) deal negotiated in just three months, prompting hopes in Paris that the agreement would act as a catalyst to unblock hoped-for sales to other countries.

India then followed suit this month by announcing the order of 36 Rafale jets during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France.

The two sides had already been engaged in years of tortuous, exclusive negotiations for the sale of 126 Rafales, but these had been bogged down over cost and New Delhi's insistence on assembling a portion of the high-tech planes in India.

So India, whose airforce is in dire need of new jets to update its ageing fleet, made a quick order for 36 planes while negotiations continue on finalising the initial 126-jet agreement.

Dassault is also involved in talks with the United Arab Emirates, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has recently hinted that these are evolving "in the right direction."

The French presidency said Thursday the new deal with Qatar was a "great satisfaction."