France delivers first batch of fighter jets to Egypt

France delivered three Rafale jets to Egypt on Monday, July 20, 2015, the first of 24 planes to be transferred.
France delivered three Rafale jets to Egypt on Monday, July 20, 2015, the first of 24 planes to be transferred.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTRES, France (AFP) - Egypt on Monday took delivery of three Rafale fighter jets from France, the first of 24 warplanes sold in a 5.2 billion euro (S$7.7 billion) deal earlier this year.

Egyptian authorities took charge of the planes at an air base in southern France, and they will be flown to Cairo by specially trained pilots on Tuesday.

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 an 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 that by showcasing French military technology it will prompt more orders for its premier combat jet, which it struggled for years to sell.

For a long period, France was the only country to buy the Rafales from Dassault. Its military forces have ordered 180 warplanes and 137 have been delivered.

Attempts to sell the jet to countries such as South Korea, Singapore, Morocco, Switzerland and Brazil have seen the Rafale lose out to its foreign competitors.