The United Arab Emirates defense ministry said its purchase of French Rafale fighter jets would complement its planned deal to buy American F-35 warplanes, which has slowed due to Washington’s concerns over Abu Dhabi’s relationship with China.
The Gulf Arab state on Friday ordered 80 Rafales made by Dassault Aviation and 12 Caracal military helicopters made by Airbus Helicopters in an arms contract worth 17 billion euros ($19.2 billion).
Major General Ibrahim Nasser Al Alawi, commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, said in a statement on state news agency WAM late on Saturday that the Rafale jets would replace the UAE’s French-built Mirage 2000 fleet.
“This deal is not considered as an alternative for the forthcoming F-35 deal, it is rather a complementary deal … as we develop our air force capabilities,” Alawi said, adding the UAE had for some time been looking to replace its Mirage fleet.
The sale of 50 F-35 warplanes made by Lockheed Martin to the UAE has slowed amid concerns in Washington over Abu Dhabi’s relationship with China, including use of Huawei 5G technology in the country.
Last month, a US official said the United States intends to move forward with the sale but that there must be a clear understanding of “Emirati obligations.”
The United States under then-president Donald Trump agreed to sell the jets after the UAE last year established ties with Israel. President Joe Biden’s administration has said this year it would proceed with the sale.
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