The United Arab Emirates ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets on Friday, the largest order ever for the warplane, a multi-billion dollar arms contract that deepens economic and political ties with France.
French President Emmanuel Macron began a two-day trip to the Gulf on Friday, and will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia. His visit comes at a time when Gulf Arab states have voiced uncertainty about the United States’ focus on the region even as they seek more weapons from their key security ally.
Greece itself has purchased a total of 24 Rafale fighter jets from France.
From these 18 aircraft, due to cost and delivery time issues, only 6 will be factory-new aircraft, in their latest F3R variant, and the remaining 12 Rafale will be second-hand ex French Air and Space Force.
The agreement envisaged starting Rafale deliveries as soon as possible: six second-hand from July 2021 to the end of the year, the next six brand new in 2022 and the last six used by Armee de l’Air in the second half of 2023.
The first group of HAF pilots, already trained for several months by the French Air and Space Force, and 50 technicians, will join Dassault’s Aviation Conversion Training Center (CTC) in Mérignac (France) to continue their preparation.