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UAE official says French Rafale planes no substitute for US fighters

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) is greeted by Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during his tour of the Emirates pavillion at the Dubai Expo on the first day of his Gulf tour on 3 December 2021. [THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images]
French President Emmanuel Macron (L) is greeted by Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during his tour of the Emirates pavillion at the Dubai Expo on the first day of his Gulf tour on 3 December 2021. [THOMAS SAMSON/AFP via Getty Images]

Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force, Major General Staff Pilot Ibrahim Nasser Al-Alawi said yesterday that the deal signed with France to purchase 80 Rafale combat aircraft will not replace the Emirates' talks to acquire F-35 jets from the US.

"The signed contract with France is not a substitute for the US F-35 ongoing discussions. It's rather complementary to our Air Force capabilities as we continue to develop our air defence systems and seek new products and advanced technologies as part of our overall National Security Strategy," Al- Alawi said.

The general explained that the UAE has been undertaking "a thorough review of global markets for options,", adding, "based on our talks with our French counterparts, we came to a mutual agreement that the Rafale provides the best option for the UAE's security and defence."

The French Rafael will replace the UAE's Mirage fleet, he explained.

On Friday, the French Presidency announced that Abu Dhabi had signed an agreement with Paris to purchase 80 Rafale warplanes made by Dassault Aviation and 12 Caracal military helicopters made by Airbus Helicopters in an arms contract worth €17 billion ($19.2 billion).

Western reports considered the deal as a sign of the UAE's impatience with US Congress' reluctance to approve the F-35 deal over the Emirates' relations with China.

Last January, the UAE announced the signing of a $23 billion deal with the United States for the purchase of U.S. made F-35 fighters.

The UAE ranked fifth among the largest purchasers of the French defence industries between 2011-2020, with purchase orders worth 4.7 billion euros, according to a report submitted to the French Parliament on arms exports.

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