The Egyptian Air Force has officially taken delivery of its first three of 24 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault. The aircraft were handed over on Monday and are flying to Egypt today.
Dassault Aviation said that the official ceremony marking the acceptance by the Arab Republic of Egypt was held at the Dassault Aviation flight test centre in Istres, in the presence of Ehab Badawy, Egyptian Ambassador to France, and Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier.
An initial group of Egyptian users has been trained in France. Egyptian pilots, trained for two months by the French Air Force, are flying the first three Rafales to Cairo today.
“This contract constitutes a new milestone in the cooperation between Dassault Aviation and Egypt since the 1970s – more than 40 years of an exemplary partnership marked by commitment and mutual trust,” Trappier said. “After the Mirage 5, the Alpha Jet and the Mirage 2000, the Rafale is the fourth Dassault aircraft to fly in Egyptian colours, and Egypt is the first export customer for the Rafale, as it was for the Mirage 2000.
“We are very pleased with this partnership, which over time has shown its solidity and ensured the durability of the historical links between our two countries. On behalf of Dassault Aviation and its 8,000 employees, its partners Thales and Snecma and the 500 subcontractors, I thank the Egyptian authorities, for the trust they have placed in us once again, and also the authorities and the French armed forces, without whose support this success would not have been possible.”
This first delivery comes five months after the Egyptian decision to acquire 24 Rafales (16 two-seaters and 8 single-seaters). The new jets will be operated by the 203rd Tactical Fighter Wing.
Their delivery comes in time to take part in the opening ceremony of the expanded Suez Canal on 6 August.
Egyptian Rafales will be armed with Mica air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles. Last month Egypt ordered AASM Hammer guided missiles for the jets.
The first three Rafales were originally produced for the French Air Force but were diverted to Egypt instead, after some French equipment was removed. The remainder are due to follow at a rate of five aircraft per year.
France has ordered 180 Rafales and received 137 so far. In April India ordered 36 Rafales while in May Qatar signed a contract for 24 of the jets.
Trappier said that Dassault is increasing Rafale production in anticipation of further export orders, Reuters reports, with the number of annual Rafale deliveries to increase from 2018. The rate could at least double from a current 11, being produced at plants including Dassault Aviation’s main assembly location at Merignac near Bordeaux in southwestern France.
Trappier reaffirmed that he expected to sign a contract for 36 Rafale jets with India in coming months after negotiations began in April.
Since Egypt’s order in February, talks are under way with Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. Trappier has said he hopes to win a fourth Rafale contract this year.