French Rafale fighter jet lands on the deck of France’s aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle
CAIRO: Egypt’s military has ordered 30 Rafale jets from French defence firm Dassault Aviation, part of a multi-billion-dollar defence mega-deal confirmed by France.
The order, which follows the 2015 purchase of 24 Rafale jets, the first sold to a foreign country, will be financed through a 10-year loan, the military said in a statement late Monday.
Investigative site Disclose had reported that the order concluded on April 26 was part of a secret defence mega-deal, including missiles and electronics, worth almost four billion euros ($4.8 billion).
French defence ministry sources confirmed the contract was worth “in the order of” that figure and included weapons and training.
Egypt is to take out loans from French banks, guaranteed by the state in France, the French finance ministry said.
Disclose said the guarantees would reach the level of “85 percent”.
Eighteen single-seat models of the Rafale and 12 twin-seaters are to be delivered between 2024 and 2026, according to the French defence ministry.
Egypt is the world’s third-biggest arms importer after Saudi Arabia and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Its arms purchases grew by 136 percent over the past decade and it has diversified its sourcing beyond the United States, buying military equipment from France, Germany and Russia, the institute said in a report released earlier this year.
Egypt’s foreign debt amounts to $125.3 billion, or 33 percent of GDP, figures from its central bank show.
The country has a more than 1,000-strong air force fleet, 28 percent of them fighter planes, according to the Global Firepower site.
Egypt has stepped up arms purchases since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over as president in 2014.
The new Rafale deal “reinforces the strategic and military partnership between France and Egypt”, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Tuesday.
“This contract illustrates the strategic nature of the partnership… while our two countries are resolutely committed to the fight against terrorism and are working for stability in their regional environment.”
For Rafale, the latest sale adds to the export of 36 planes each to Qatar and India, and 18 sold to Greece in January.
“This new order is proof of the unfailing bond that unites Egypt, the first foreign user of the Rafale… with Dassault Aviation for nearly 50 years,” the company’s CEO Eric Trappier said in a statement.
Egypt, neighbouring war-torn Libya, has long positioned itself as a bulwark of stability in the region.
The country has repeatedly denied charges by rights groups that its armaments are used to repress civil opposition.
Sisi and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron enjoy a close relationship built on mutual security interests.
At a joint press conference in Paris in December, Macron said: “I will not condition defence and economic cooperation matters on these disagreements (over human rights).”