French Rafale fighter plane lands on deck of French aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle
CAIRO: Egyptian army ordered 30 Rafale planes from French defense solidify Dassault Aviation, as part of a multi-billion dollar defense mega-deal confirmed by France.
The order, which follows the purchase in 2015 of 24 Rafale jets, the first sold to a foreign country, will be financed by a 10-year loan, the army said in a statement Monday evening.
The investigation site Disclose had reported that the order concluded on April 26 was part of a mega-secret defense deal, including missiles and electronics, worth nearly four billion euros (4 , $ 8 billion).
Sources from the French Defense Ministry confirmed that the contract was worth “in order of” that number and included weapons and training.
Egypt must take out loans from French banks, guaranteed by the French state, the French finance ministry said.
Disclose said the guarantees would reach the “85 percent” level.
Eighteen single-seater models of the Rafale and 12 two-seater should be delivered between 2024 and 2026, according to the French Ministry of Defense.
Egypt is the third largest arms importer in the world after Saudi Arabia and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Its arms purchases have grown 136% over the past decade and it has diversified its supply beyond the United States, purchasing military equipment from France, Germany and Russia, said the institute in a report released earlier this year.
Egypt’s external debt stands at $ 125.3 billion, or 33 percent of GDP, according to figures from its central bank.
The country has a fleet of more than 1,000 air forces, 28% of which are fighter jets, according to the Global Firepower website.
Egypt has stepped up its arms purchases since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took over the presidency in 2014.
The new Rafale agreement “strengthens the strategic and military partnership between France and Egypt,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said on Tuesday.
“This contract illustrates the strategic nature of the partnership … while our two countries are resolutely committed to the fight against terrorism and work for the stability of their regional environment.”
For Rafale, the latest sale comes on top of the export of 36 planes each to Qatar and India, and 18 sold to Greece in January.
“This new order is proof of the unwavering link between Egypt, the first foreign user of the Rafale … with Dassault Aviation for nearly 50 years, ”said company CEO Eric Trappier in a statement.
Egypt, a neighbor to war-torn Libya, has long positioned itself as a bulwark of stability in the region.
The country has repeatedly denied accusations by human rights groups that its weapons are being used to suppress civilian opposition.
Sissi and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron enjoy a close relationship based on mutual security interests.
At a joint press conference in Paris in December, Macron said: “I will not condition defense and economic cooperation issues on these disagreements (on human rights).”