The French aerospace heavyweight Dassault Aviation completed a deal with the United Arab Emirates for eighty of the company’s advanced multi-role fighter jet, the Rafale.
Dassault noted in a press statement that “the Rafale F4, for which the Emirates Air Force will be the first user outside France, will provide the Emirates armed forces with a tool capable of guaranteeing sovereignty and operational independence.”
“This contract is the result of total mobilization by Dassault Aviation alongside the Emirates Air Force and comes on the back of a more than 45-year long relationship of trust between the United Arab Emirates and our company, built on the Mirage family of fighter aircraft, notably the Mirage 2000-9, the modernization of which began two years ago,” according to the press statement.
Dassault’s F4 standard upgrades the Rafale’s radar and infrared search and track system. In addition, the jet’s communications are also improved, making the F4 standard is the most capable and advanced Rafale to date.
Plans for the Rafale began in the 1970s when the French Ministry of Defense recognized the need for a multi-role fighter jet that could perform well in various missions. The weapons platform would need to be a capable air-to-air fighter that could also strike ground targets in all weather conditions and replace several specialized French warplanes.
To that end, the Rafale F4 is a highly agile fighter jet. While not a stealthy aircraft, the Rafale features several radar-mitigating features, including extensive use of composite materials in the airframe.
French Combat Aviation
“This contract is excellent news for France and for its aeronautical industry, for the entire ecosystem of 400 companies, both large and small, which contribute to the Rafale: this represents thousands of guaranteed jobs in our sector for the coming decade,” Eric Trappier, the chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation explained.
“This contract, which is the largest ever obtained by the French combat aeronautics industry, consolidates a national industrial base, which is without a doubt unique in Europe, comprising as it does major groups and SME/SMIs, around a company which has been the prime contractor for all the generations of military and civil aircraft for the past 70 years,” Trappier said. “The success of the Rafale with our armed forces and its sale to the UAE Federation, as well as its export to five other countries who are already customers, clearly shows that French combat aviation is an internationally recognized center of excellence on the national industrial landscape.”
While the Rafale F4 sale is good news for the Emiratis, the small Middle East nation is still hoping for an F-35 stealth fighter sale pitched to the Trump administration to go forward. To date, Israel is the only Middle East nation to fly the advanced fifth-generation American stealth fighter and would like to maintain this balance of power.
Fielding the advanced U.S. jet would complement the UAE’s capable Rafale F4’s—though it remains to be seen if the deal will go through.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. @calebmlarson