France is close to finalizing a Rafale fighter jet deal with the UAE. According to French media, the potential deal could involve the F-4 variant of the multi-role combat aircraft.
Reports suggest that if negotiations progress at this pace, an announcement could be made before the end of this year. The French media also reported that President Emmanuel Macron will visit Abu Dhabi on December 2, followed by visits to Doha (Qatar) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on December 3 and 4.
The agreement might be announced during his visit, boosting his image significantly before the end of his five-year tenure. However, no official announcement has been made by the French government.
Since 2009, the UAE has shown interest in the Rafale F4 standard. The fact that these claims surfaced so soon after the US confirmed its willingness to proceed with the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, with somewhat “additional obligations” before and after delivery, is striking.
France-UAE Ties Post-AUKUS
The visit of UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to France in September has been linked to Emirati-French efforts to forge a new alliance to cover the purported gap left by Washington’s disengagement from the Arab Gulf region.
There has been a sense of waning of American commitment to Gulf security since the outset of President Joe Biden’s administration.
This was sparked by the United States’ move to lessen its military presence in the region, including the withdrawal of the Patriot air-defense missile system and a restriction on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s visit to Paris, according to UAE Ambassador to France Hend Al Otaiba, was a chance to showcase the two countries’ excellent strategic alliance, emphasizing their coherent goal and determination to develop further cooperation.
Furthermore, as one of Washington’s oldest allies, France has suffered severe embarrassment as a consequence of the AUKUS pact involving Australia, the UK, and the US. And now, France and the UAE want to play a bigger role in the region and are working together militarily and economically.
Status Of The Rafale Deal
According to the Arab Weekly, Sheikh Mohammed may count on his special relationship with Macron, as well as the UAE’s significant investment in France, to seal a deal for Rafale jet fighters.
This will be part of a larger Emirati effort to diversify its armament sources. Since 2009, the UAE and France have discussed the procurement of 60 Rafale combat aircraft.
According to military experts, the aircraft’s combat record in Afghanistan in 2007, Libya in 2011, and the Sahel region in 2013 earned it a global reputation. The UAE is already a customer of the French arms manufacturers. It has 436 Leclerc assault tanks with its army.
In terms of Franco-Gulf trade, the UAE has also become a vital strategic partner for France in the Middle East, second only to Saudi Arabia. In the battle against terror, the two nations maintain a strong partnership.
Additionally, Egypt entered into a contract worth €3.75 billion ($4.5 billion) to purchase 30 Rafale combat jets in May and this is expected to further encourage the UAE to buy the Rafale fighter jets.
Prior to this, Macron had advocated arms sales to Gulf countries. He referred to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi as allies in the fight against terrorism, emphasizing that Paris had gained assurances that these countries would not use these weapons against civilians.
There is a possibility that the UAE will buy both F-35 and Rafale fighter jets, but there is a fine distinction between the two. While the Rafale will provide them with more operational autonomy, the American platform will come with certain pre-conditions. The Rafale could also be an excellent replacement for the UAE’s Mirage-2000 fighters.