The United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Defense Europe: update on the Rafale
By Pierre Tran
Paris – The United Arab Emirates has paid a deposit for its order for 80 Rafale fighter jets, aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation said in an April 19 statement.
“Today, we received the first installment of the contract for the acquisition of 80 Rafale by the United Arab Emirates”, indicated the company, underlining “the strength of the strategic partnership” between France and the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates on December 3 signed the contract, worth 14 billion euros ($15 billion), for the Rafale and the related deal worth 2 billion euros for the missiles of MBDA, a European manufacturer of guided weapons.
The down payment, usually 15% of the total amount, signifies that the contract enters into force and allows Dassault to add the Emirati agreement to its order book.
Dassault announced a 2021 backlog of 20.8 billion euros, compared to 16 billion euros the previous year. The family-controlled company said the 2021 backlog excludes the UAE deal, which was due to be completed in 2022.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan attended the signing of the contract, underscoring the political weight of the biggest export order for the Rafale fighter.
“Dassault Aviation is fully committed to supporting the United Arab Emirates in its sovereignty, its strategic challenges and its ambitious vision for the future,” said Eric Trappier, Executive Chairman of Dassault.
It remains to be seen what will become of the UAE’s Mirage 2000-9 fleet, with media reporting that there is a search for buyers for fighters acquired in the 1990s. Egypt, Greece and Morocco are considered potential customers for the UAE’s fleet of 56 modernized Mirage 2000-9s, Forbes reports the magazine.
“It is up to the partner country to decide the future of its aircraft fleet,” said a French source.
The procurement office of the Directorate General of Armaments declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Indonesia is expected to be the next customer country to make a down payment to Dassault, for an order worth $8.1 billion for 42 Rafales, with the French Ministry of the Armed Forces expecting the payment is made this year.
Serbia looking to order Rafale – maybe
Meanwhile, Serbia is in talks for an order of 12 Rafale fighters, underlining a political intention to sever close military ties with Russia, Reuters reported April 11. Belgrade had to be careful about financing the purchase and was determined to avoid “jeopardizing” its public finances, President Aleksandar Vucic said.
Serbia is also in talks with the UK to order the Eurofighter Typhoon and an unspecified missile, which could equip the Typhoon and Rafale, according to a specialized publication Janes announced April 19.
This missile is “probably” the Meteor, Meta-Defense The website reported on April 20 that France was reluctant to supply the long-range weapon to Serbia, prompting Belgrade to continue talks with the UK for the fighter deal.
But if London offered the MBDA Meteor to win the order for Serbian fighters, Paris could deny export permission because there is French technology in the missile, including the radar seeker, Meta-Defense reported.
Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden hold such permission, as companies from these countries supply equipment on the Meteor. MBDA’s Scalp/Storm Shadow also powers the Typhoon and Rafale, and UK and French clearances also apply to foreign sales of the cruise missile.
A French reluctance to supply the Meteor could stem from concerns over the fragile balance of power in the Balkans, an arms official said, with the missile capable of very long ranges.
Paris could seek “to avoid fueling the risk of conflict” in the Balkans, a second executive has said.
Negotiations for the French fighter are taking place alongside Serbia’s search for 12 used Western European ground-attack aircraft, French publication The Aviation Journal reported April 12.
The Serbian Air Force is seeking fighters from Western Europe to replace a fleet of 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.
The service also wants to replace an aging fleet of about 15 J22 Orao ground attack aircraft built by Soko, an aircraft manufacturer from the former Yugoslavia.
Serbia, a candidate for membership of the European Union, has voted three times in the United Nations against Russia, following President Vladimir Putin’s order to invade Ukraine on February 24.
More than five million Ukrainians have fled their own country as Russian forces launched a concerted attack on April 19 against the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
Putin called off the storming of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, southeastern Ukraine, the BBC reported on April 21, ordering Russian troops to seal it off so that even a “fly “cannot escape. There is no need to capture the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance, as Russian forces control the strategic port city.
Serbia has placed military orders with Western European companies, in an effort to strengthen ties with the West and distance itself from Moscow.
This Serbian contract includes a 2019 contract for MBDA Mistral 3 short-range surface-to-air missiles and two Airbus C295 military transport aircraft ordered in February this year. The first delivery of the C295 twin-turboprop is scheduled for the end of next year, Airbus announced on February 23.
Belgrade has also ordered a fleet of H145M combat and transport helicopters from Airbus Helicopters.
Serbia is also heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, and there remains a reliance on Moscow for military kit, every week Air & Cosmos reported. Belgrade ordered four Russian Mi-35 and three Mi-17 helicopter gunships last year.
There are also close military ties between Serbia and China, with Belgrade having ordered the FK-3, a next-generation radar-guided medium-range surface-to-air missile from Beijing, Reuters reported on August 3, 2020. China has also delivered to Serbia this sixth year, CH-92A combat drones armed with laser-guided missiles, which were “the first deployment of such Chinese unmanned aerial vehicles in Europe”, the news agency reported. .
Serbia has also accepted Chinese loans worth billions of dollars to invest in its infrastructure, seen as part of Beijing’s continued political and economic influence around the world.
The graphic featured: A portrait of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and de facto ruler of Abu Dhabi.