The success of the Rafale in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the sixth country to export the tricolor fighter jet, comes at the end of a very long and often thwarted history between France, specifically Dassault Aviation, and Abu Dhabi. But the French state was able to renew the threads of an important strategic relationship despite the Rafale’s three failures in the United Arab Emirates, including the end of 2011. who was already the UAE strongman, had estimated at the time that Dassault Aviation’s commercial proposal was for 60 Rafales “not able to compete”. A declaration that had seemed like an ice shower in Paris at the time.
Ten years later, relations of trust with the Emirates strongman have been patiently renewed since the arrival of François Hollande and his Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. The meticulous work was continued by Emmanuel Macron and his Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly. These long-standing close ties have made it possible to secure this long-awaited success in this country, which is strategically very important for France at the geopolitical level. Like in Egypt.
The Rafale, a more sophisticated aircraft
For a long time, the Emiratis at Dassault Aviation asked for a Rafale that didn’t exist yet. A device that should be developed with billions. Hence the very high bill presented by the manufacturer in 2011. This had particularly annoyed the Crown Prince, who at the time complained about a significant price difference between his estimates and Dassault Aviation’s. Ten years later, the Rafale’s performance comes close to the operational desires of the Emirates, which offer the F4 standard, the same as that of the French Air Force. In addition, the Rafale’s performance has been extensively analyzed by the Emiratis during its numerous deployments during French overseas operations.
The Rafale F4 Standard will be developed in France and will be operational in France in two consecutive phases, in 2023 and then in 2025, to benefit from the most advanced technologies and innovations of the moment as they become available. The validation of the F4 standard is planned for 2024, certain functions will be available from 2022. The choice of the Emiratis is therefore a real vote of confidence towards France on the part of Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) while the device is in development.
The F-35, a plane of dependencies
With the purchase of the Rafale, the Emiratis are confident that they can use it however they want, with the performance required. Which is not really the case with the F-35, Lockheed Martin’s American aircraft. This particularly annoyed MBZ during his talks with the Americans when he originally wanted this device. For two reasons. Without confirming the maintenance of military-technical superiority QME (Qualitative military advantage) of Washington, Israel would never have accepted the sale of the F-35, such a sophisticated weapon system, to the UAE. result that f–35 Emiratis would have been “derated” in their capabilities, especially at the sensor and armament level, in order to guarantee the Israeli armed forces air supremacy in the event of a dissolution of the alliance.
Also, the F-35 remains a very short-leash fighter for countries that buy it from the Americans. un electronic system in relation to theThe maintenance, diagnostics, supply chain management and fleet management of aircraft sold for export are operated directly by HPSI (Hybrid Product Support Integration) agency, a joint organization of Lockheed Martin and the US Department of Defense. The F-35 remains an aircraft of dependencies rather than independence and operational autonomy. Like France, the United States discovered in MBZ, a very demanding customer and unwilling to accept anything. Which doesn’t mean the F-35 will never land in Abu Dhabi.
France and the United Arab Emirates, strategic partners
Whether the Greens like it or not, France has a very important strategic partnership with the United Arab Emirates, a key player in resolving tensions and conflicts in the region. They are not afraid to pursue a foreign policy that differs from that of their big neighbor Saudi Arabia on a case-by-case basis. They will be on January 1st non-permanent members of the UN Security Council and will be welcome the climate summit Cop 28 take place in November 2023. France, which maintains a joint military base in the United Arab Emirates, often relies on MBZ’s interpersonal skills to advance certain important issues in the region.
This partnership was strengthened during Emmanuel Macron’s visit. As the President said in Dubai on Friday, he is pursuing a multi-directional agenda: “Peace and stability in the region, fight against all extremes, fight against terrorism and very concrete cooperation in sensitive situations”. The Emiratis were also on the side of the French in Operation Apagan, une evacuation operation organized by French forces following the capture of Kabul from the Taliban in August 2021. The Emirates were “admirable”is appreciated in Paris.
Additionally, like many other countries, the UAE has seen American withdrawal from the Middle East. This forces them to diversify their political and strategic partnerships, as well as their arms supplies, including France. “I always put our trade and military deals in context” of a strategic partnership, recalled the French President. Such is the case with the sale of the 80 Rafale sold in the UAE.