DOHA: Qatar’s planned signing of €6.3 billion (US $7.1 billion) of contracts for the Rafale fighter jet and missiles boosts French arms exports to more than €15 billion, the highest value France has ever reached in a single year, defense officials said.
President François Hollande is due to attend the May 4 signing for 24 fighters by Dassault Aviation and missile maker MBDA in Doha, signaling high-level ties.
At the invitation of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, the president of the Republic will go to Doha on May 4 to attend the signing of contracts between Dassault Aviation and MBDA, and Qatar, as well as the intergovernmental agreement which sets the framework for cooperation between our two countries,” the president’s Elysée office said in a statement.
The Qatari deal, the third in as many months, follows Egypt and India after fallow years for the twin-engine fighter.
Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier said on BFM TV there are options for 12 more Rafales for the Qatar Air Force, Reuters reported on April 30.
The deal includes MBDA Mica air-to-air and Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles, Scalp cruise missiles, and Sagem’s armement air-sol modulaire, a powered smart bomb, defense officials said.
French Air Force officers are in talks to train 36 pilots as the Qatari service has asked for that direct link and the training costs are under discussion between the two services, the officials said. Some 100 Qatari mechanics will maintain the fighter, which is a major technological upgrade from the present fleet of 12 Mirage 2000-5s. France will deliver six twin-seat,18 single-seat versions.
“This confirms the closeness of diplomatic and economic relations between France and Qatar,” Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius said in a statement.
Qatar was originally looking for up some 70 fast jets. The French order for 24 aircraft, plus a likely handful of options, has revived speculation among analysts and others that the Gulf state might be considering a split buy with a US fast jet maker.