French Kiss: Egypt Becomes The Largest Customer Of French Weapons

Egypt will add 30 more jets to its 24-strong Rafale fleet for reportedly for $4.5 billion (~150 million apiece), making it the biggest buyer of the French aircraft, overtaking India and Qatar.

In recent years, France has emerged as Egypt’s key defense supplier.

According to data from SIPRI, France’s arms transfers outstripped even those of the USA, accounting for 37% of Egypt’s arms supplies of heavy conventional arms. In spite of the political turbulence leading to widespread and systematic human rights violations in Egypt since 2011, transfers of French military equipment have increased rapidly, with recent multi-billion euro deals cementing defense ties.

On May 4, the Egyptian Defense Ministry said it signed an agreement with France for 30 Rafales. The contract is financed through a financing loan of a minimum duration of 10 years. According to reports, the accord covers contracts for MBDA and Safran valued additional $240 million.

French Emmanuel Macron welcomes President Al-Sisi of Egypt in Paris. Photo by Egyptian MFA.

“This new order is proof of the unfailing bond that unites Egypt, the first foreign user of the Rafale, as it was for the Mirage 2000, with Dassault Aviation for nearly 50 years. It is also a tribute to Rafale’s operational quality, as this is the second time an export customer has chosen to order additional aircraft. Dassault Aviation and its partners would like to thank the Egyptian authorities for this new mark of trust and assure them of their total commitment to meeting their expectations once again,” stated Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

Cairo signed its first Rafale deal for $5.9 billion in February 2015. This contract was for 24 (8 single-seat, 16 two-seat) Rafales, Meteor and Scalp missiles, as well as a FREMM multipurpose frigate. This means, Egypt bought a weaponized Rafale for $245 million. The deal was financed up to 50% by a consortium of French banks.

Similar large-scale military contracts with Egypt fell through in the past apparently more over concerns about Egypt’s ability to pay for the equipment rather than concerns over its human rights record.

Originally reported by the French online news site Disclose, the €3.75 billion ($4.5 billion) deal was apparently completed in late April and could be signed when an Egyptian delegation arrives in the French capital on Tuesday.

Disclose says this time around 85% of loans linked to the deal will be guaranteed by the French state as well as banks BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and CIC. 

India purchased 36 off-the-shelf Rafales for nearly $8 billion in 2016. This contract included an option for 18 more jets. Until now, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has inducted 15 Rafales and the remaining jets are scheduled to be delivered to the service by the end of 2022. Each of these IAF jets with weapons that come with a price tag of around $220 million each have a combat range of 780-1650km without mid-air refueling. They come armed with weapons such as 300km-range Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles, Meteor air-to-air missiles with strike range of 120-150km, and Hammer air-to-ground precision-guided munitions with strike range of 20-70km.

The Egyptian deal comes just four months after Greece confirmed a $3.01 billion contract for 18 Rafales (each jet would cost around $160 million).

Qatar bought 24 Rafales with an option to buy 12 more for $7 billion six years ago. The contract included the provision of long-range cruise missiles and Meteor missiles as well as the training of 36 Qatari pilots and 100 technicians by the French military and several Qatari intelligence officers; thus, the price can be viewed as $270 million for each aircraft. In late 2017, the option for 12 more Rafales was exercised for $1.3 billion (or $110 million each) while adding an additional option for 36 further fighters.

France won arms export orders worth €8.33 billion ($9.3 billion) in 2019, down 8.7 percent from €9.1 billion in the previous year, with France seeking to stay competitive in a weapons market made tougher by the Covid-19 virus, an official report to parliament said.

French companies delivered €9.9 billion of arms last year, a 43.4 percent rise from the previous year, the armed forces ministry report to parliament said.

The ministry expects a “fairly large fall in orders in 2020,” with the 2019 sales seen as “a very good figure,” afternoon daily Le Monde reported. That positive view of last year’s sales factored in the absence of an order for the Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jet.

“The average for the years without a Rafale contract is between €6-€7 billion,” the official report said.

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