Emmanuel Macron used his two-day trip to the Gulf region to deepen military cooperation with the United Arab Emirates. On Friday morning, the French President met with Sheikh Muhammad Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and at the same time Vice-Commander of the armed forces of the desert state. Together they signed the contract to supply 80 French Rafale fighter jets. They also agreed to deliver the weapons for the Rafele aircraft and twelve Airbus Caracal multi-purpose and transport helicopters. The Emirates also agreed to increase their investments in French industry and, among other things, the license for the branch of the French Louvre in the Emirates was extended.Exact sums were not given. The total volume of the agreements is estimated at around 25 billion euros.

Niklas Záboji

Business correspondent in Paris

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"This is the result of the strategic partnership between the two countries, which strengthens their ability to act together for their autonomy and security," announced the Élysée Palace. The French armaments industry, on the other hand, has secured a major order in its history, and in the fighter jet sector even the largest. Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the Rafale, was correspondingly happy. "This contract is excellent news for France and its aviation industry, for the entire ecosystem of 400 companies, large and small, that contribute to Rafale," said Trappier. He thanked the authorities of the Emirates for their trust and called the fighter aircraft "a French success story". Investors also appreciated the signing of the contract:The price of the Dassault Aviation share, which is traded on the Paris stock exchange, shot up shortly after it became known and was up around 8 percent shortly before the end of trading on Friday afternoon at around 91 euros.

The seventh country to rely on the fighter jet

Thanks to the desert deal, the Rafale is increasingly becoming an export hit. Including France, the Emirates are now the seventh country to rely on the fighter jet. The difficult first years are increasingly being forgotten: Introduced in the early 2000s, the Rafale did not compete with competitors like the Lockheed Martin F-35 from America for a long time. It was not until 2015 that the first order outside the French armed forces came with an order from Egypt. Since then, the order curve has been pointing steeply upwards: Egypt followed Qatar and India, and with Greece and Croatia, the French found buyers in Europe for the first time this year. According to reports, talks with Finland and Indonesia are also well advanced. The Rafale is produced at eleven locations in France,According to Dassault Aviation, this means that there are around 7,000 employees, both directly and indirectly. In total, the company employed around 12,400 people last year and achieved sales of 5.5 billion euros.

With the order of 80 fighter jets, a new chapter will be opened in the Rafale story, Dassault Aviation is convinced, as only 180 aircraft have been ordered by the French armed forces and 150 aircraft from abroad so far. They are to be delivered to the desert state from 2027 until probably 2031. The Emirates have ordered the latest F4 version of the Rafale and want to replace their previous Mirage 2000 fleet with it. Why they decided against the American F-35, whose stealth technology and means of communication are considered more modern, is not officially known.

For Macron and the French arms industry, the major order from the Emirates is a success story after the summer fiasco for the canceled submarine delivery to Australia and with a view to the presidential election next spring. It is no coincidence that the President is accompanied on his trip to the Gulf region not only by Economics Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defense Minister Florence Parly, but also by numerous industry representatives. French companies that are active in the armaments sector alongside Airbus and Dassault Aviation include Safran, Thales and the Naval Group. The French state and Dassault Aviation have had a partnership with the Emirates that has lasted for decades. The first combat aircraft were delivered there in the early 1970s.France and the United Arab Emirates pursue common interests in the Middle East, among others with regard to Turkey. In the dispute over natural gas production in the Eastern Mediterranean, both countries have sided with Greece.

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