ISTRES (France) • Egypt has taken delivery of three Rafale fighter jets from France, the first of 24 warplanes sold in a €5.2 billion (S$7.7 billion) deal earlier this year.
The Egyptian authorities took charge of the planes at an air base in southern France yesterday, and they will be flown to Cairo by specially trained pilots today.
Cairo is hoping to boost its military presence as it faces an unstable Libya to the west and threats from militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group in its Sinai Peninsula to the east.
For Egypt, the agreement is also a show of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013 and wants to break a US monopoly over arms sales to Cairo.
The overall deal with Egypt also includes contracts for missiles and for a FREMM multi-mission frigate from naval group DCNS.
However, the deal has sparked concern from campaign groups worried about Cairo's human rights record. Some have accused Paris of double standards for freezing its delivery of two Mistral-class warships to Russia over the Ukraine crisis but going ahead with the Egypt deal.
The deal is a much-needed boon to cash-strapped France and Paris hopes it will prompt more orders for its premier combat jet, which it struggled for years to sell.