United Arab Emirates Becomes First Export Rafale F4 Customer

The United Arab Emirates signed a contract with Dassault Aviation on Friday for the procurement of 80 Rafale F4s, a future version of the multirole aircraft currently undergoing development. The largest-ever export order of the Rafale makes the UAE the first export customer for the F4, as well as the sixth worldwide customer for the Rafale.

The contract for the United Arab Emirates Air Force & Air Defence’s future Rafales was signed on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020 by Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier with Tareq Abdul Raheem Al Hosani, CEO of Tawazun Economic Council, in charge of security and defense acquisitions. The signing was witnessed by Sheikh Mohammed ben Zayed Al Nahyane, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Vice-Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is on a two-day state visit to the Arabian Gulf, with visits to Qatar and Saudi Arabia also on his agenda.

In a press release, Dassault credited the contract signing to “total mobilization” by the manufacturer and the Emirates Air Force. No timetable for aircraft construction and delivery was provided, although Dassault has previously stated that it aims to have a “first version” of the F4 flying as early as 2023 based on the F3R standard, the most advanced Rafale version currently available. French officials that spoke to Reuters, however, said that deliveries will start in 2027.

The signing of the contract for the Rafale F4s (Dassault Aviation)

Trappier described the sale as a “French success story”, saying that it consolidated the strategic relationship between the UAE and France. He added:

“This contract is excellent news for France and for its aeronautical industry, for the entire ecosystem of 400 companies, both large and small, which contribute to the Rafale: this represents thousands of guaranteed jobs in our sector for the coming decade. This contract, which is the largest ever obtained by the French combat aeronautics industry, consolidates a national industrial base, which is without doubt unique in Europe, comprising as it does major groups and SME/SMIs, around a company which has been the prime contractor for all the generations of military and civil aircraft for the past 70 years. The success of the Rafale with our armed forces and its sale to the UAE Federation, as well as its export to five other countries who are already customers, clearly shows that French combat aviation is an internationally recognized center of excellence on the national industrial landscape.”

Also ordered by the UAE were 12 Airbus Caracal H225M multirole military helicopters. According to the French Presidency, the total value of the deal is $19 billion, with 7,000 jobs to be created by its signing. At a press conference after the signing, Macron dismissed concerns by activists that French arms sales were fuelling conflicts in the Middle East, saying to reporters that “these contracts are important for the economy and create jobs in France. What is good for French men and women, I defend ardently”.