In January 2016 Egypt received another three Rafale jet fighters from France. The first three arrived in July 2015, four months after Egyptian pilots and maintainers arrived in France for training. The Egyptian Rafales required a few modifications, mainly the removal of the hardware and software required for the aircraft to deliver nuclear weapons as well as the NATO communications equipment. This was replaced with what communications gear is currently standard in Egyptian warplanes (largely F-16s). Egypt wants to receive all 24 Rafales before it considering order more so France is seeking to complete delivery by 2017.
In early 2015 Egypt, looking to strengthen its military muscle, placed an order for 24 Dassault Rafale Fighter Jets. Egypt has a long history of buying from the French and currently have about a hundred Mirage V’s and Mirage 2000’s in service. These two predecessors to the Rafale have served the Egyptian air force well, seeing action most recently in the 2014 bombing of Libya. But these Mirages are getting old and will have to be retired within the next ten years. Egypt has a large force of American F-16s, but the U.S. has lots of rules that prevent some countries from buying more and the rules change all the time. France is less judgmental when it comes to selling warplanes.
The Rafale costs between $100 and $130 million. Its design was based heavily off the Mirage 2000 and like most other Dassault fighters it has the Delta Wing configuration. The Rafale has a maximum speed of 2,130 kilometers an hour and a range of over 3,700 kilometers. It is equipped with a 30mm cannon and can carry nine tons worth of weapons. It is a battle tested aircraft that has already seen service with French Forces in Afghanistan, Mali, Libya and Iraq.
This sale to Egypt is a big deal for France. Over the past few years’ export buyers for the Rafale have been scarce. The Rafale is up against stiff competition for sales from aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen NG, F-18 and Su-30. Thus in 2013 Brazil passed on buying the Rafale and instead went with the cheaper Swedish Gripen NG. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is still considering a purchase as is India. This latest sale to Egypt is a much needed to encourages others to buy an aircraft that has not been selling well. What helped make this sale happen was Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE providing half the financing and the French government guaranteeing most of the rest. Egypt is not a good credit risk and has been kept afloat since 2011 by massive charity from Gulf Arab oil states (like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE).
France has had nothing but hard times trying to find export customers for its Rafale and that had consequences. In 2009 the production rate was reduced from 14 a year to 11 aircraft a year and that was further reduced later. This was to slow down the delivery of Rafales, mainly because the Defense Ministry has decided that other things were more important. The new emphasis (and spending) is on peacekeeping and anti-missile defenses. Another reason for slowing down Rafale production was the lack of export orders.
India is currently taking a closer look at the Rafale. The country has been seeking to modernize its military and has most recently turned to the United States for assistance. France wants to build up its relationship with India, as well, and would like it to purchase the Rafale. The Indian air force is already using the Mirage 2000 and has historically liked Dassualt aircraft. The two main sticking points, standing in the way of a deal are the Rafale’s rising price tag and whether India will be able to produce the fighter domestically. India insists on coproduction (some Rafale manufacturing done in India) and the French believe India overestimates its capabilities in handling some of the advanced technologies that go into Rafale. Of course India wants local manufacturers to handle that advanced tech and this is how you learn. But India also wants the French held responsible for the quality of items produced in India and this is still being negotiated. The French are confident and hope to close out a $20 billion deal for the Indian Rafale by the end of 2016.