Egypt on Monday became the first export customer for Dassault’s Rafale fighter jet after signing a contract for 24 aircraft, as well as a FREMM frigate and MBDA missiles.
The Egyptian Air Force will take delivery of 16 two-seater and eight single-seater aircraft. Three aircraft on the production line destined for the French Air Force will be delivered to Egypt instead, after some French equipment has been removed. Together with the French Navy’s FREMM frigate Normandie, they will arrive in time to perform a flypast at the inauguration of the expanded Suez Canal on 5 August. The other 21 aircraft will be delivered at the rate of five a year.
Egypt’s defence minister Sidqi Sobqi signed the deals with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in a ceremony in the presence of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Dassault CEO Eric Trappier, DCNS CEO Herve Guillou and MBDA Missiles CEO Antoine Bouvier.
The contracts, signed at a presidential palace in Cairo, also covered the FREMM frigate and missiles including Mica air-to-air missiles, Aster 15 surface-to-air missiles, Sagem AASM (Arement Air-Sol Modulaire) air-to-ground munitions and Scalp cruise missiles.
“Our two countries are pursuing a common struggle against terrorism,” Le Drian said during the signing ceremony. He earlier said that the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya that resulted in Egyptian air strikes was another reason for Cairo to improve its security.
“Egypt’s stability is an important element in the stability of the countries overlooking the Mediterranean sea, especially your country that has witnessed recent terrorist events,” Egyptian Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi told Le Drian.
“This is a new era of bilateral cooperation between Paris and Cairo,” Le Drian said. “This contract puts Rafale at the top of the pyramid of combat aircraft.”
The Rafale sale to Egypt is good news for Dassault, which has struggled to find an export customer for the aircraft, with a number of deals falling through at the last moment. Trappier said he was very confident that India would soon proceed with a sale for 126 Rafales after three years of negotiations. Dassault is also in negotiations to supply the Rafale to Qatar.
On Friday Trappier said the Egyptian deal is likely to inspire other potential clients in the Middle-East and Asia. “I think that this sale to a big Arab country will snow-ball. There are other potential clients in the Middle-East… Qatar is looking, this is not news…we are also trying to project ourselves in Malaysia,” he said.