The UAE Air Force and Air defence had been operating MIRAGE 2000 for many years and had contracted with Dassault Aviation for the delivery of 30 new MIRAGE 2000-9 aircraft and for the modernisation of its existing fleet of 33 MIRAGE 2000 up to the latest-9 standard. The UAE will be the first 2000-9 operator following its $2-billion order for the aircraft. Delivery of the new 2000-9s was scheduled for late 2001.
In June 2008, the UAE said it was "seriously considering" the possibility that the Rafale could enter service in about 2013. By early 2010 it was reported that the United Arab Emirates and France were discussing the joint development of a more capable, new-generation Dassault Rafale strike fighter. The jets would replace the Mirage 2000-9s bought from France in 1998. The discussions had moved forward from buying the Rafale to co-developing the next-generation Rafale. The prospective new model would meet UAE requirements, and would be a big boost for the twin-engine fighter jet. Dassault Aviation had entered the Rafale in bidding for contracts in Brazil and India, and had offered it to Kuwait and Libya, but as of early 2011 failed to find foreign customers. The main upgrades for the UAE were an active electronically scanned array radar, frontal sector optronics and an electronic warfare suite, systems supplied by Thales, and a 9-ton-thrust M88 engine, up-rated from the 7.5-ton engine that powers the French Air Force and Navy Rafales.
One report suggested that Paris had agreed to buy back the Mirage 2000-9s for service with the French Air Force, putting its own Mirage 2000-5s on the secondhand market and retiring the Mirage 2000N nuclear strike variant. The consortium of French aerospace companies hoping to sell as many as 60 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE offered to set up facilities to make the aircraft in Abu Dhabi.
As of 2011 Dassault was still looking for customers to buy the Mirage 2000-9 aircraft that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) intended to replace with Rafales, Chief Executive Charles Edelstenne said March 19, 2009. A first delivery of the Rafale to the UAE would not be before 2012; and the UAE Air Force would probably need about three year's time to train aircrews on the new aircraft. "We have time to prospect," he said. DGA Chief Executive Laurent Collet-Billon said March 17, 2009 that the French Air Force would not be taking the Mirage 2000-9s from the UAE.
In September 2011, it was widely predicted that Rafale’s selection would be announced at the Dubai Airshow. But the UAE said in November 2011 that the offer for Rafales from France's Dassault Aviation was uncompetitive and opened up the tender to competition. The UAE has pressed for the aircraft's engines to be upgraded with extra thrust and for better radar.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was quoted by the UAE’s official news agency WAM in N0vmber 2011 : “Thanks to French President Sarkozy, France could not have done more diplomatically or politically to secure the Rafale deal. Bilateral relations have never been stronger and his constant personal intervention in this process has sustained Dassault at the forefront of our considerations. Regrettably Dassault seems unaware that all the diplomatic and political will in the world cannot overcome uncompetitive and unworkable commercial terms.”
Qatar and Kuwait were considering buying French Rafale fighter jets, but were waiting to see whether the United Arab Emirates would make a purchase first. French defence minister Gerard Longuet said 09 January 2012 that "They are in effect interested but they won't know for sure until the first one jumps in." The UAE was in talks with France to buy 60 Rafales. Industry experts have estimated that Kuwait needed 18-22 new fighter jets and that Qatar needed 24.
France could seal a long-awaited deal for Dassault to sell at least 60 Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates by April, turning around what appeared to have been a lost cause, French newspaper La Tribune reported in February 2012.
By early 2015 the United Arab Emirates had restarted talks on ordering the Dassault Rafale, with a planned major upgrade of the fighter jet in contrast to the off-the-shelf deals for Egypt and India. France had been in talks for more than five years on a sale of 60 Rafales, with the UAE requiring a more capable fighter with an extensive weapons suite. The Rafale would replace the fleet of Mirage 2000-9s.
UAE was looking at upgrades of the systems and engine of the Rafale. These might include active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, frontal sector optronic and an electronic warfare suite, systems supplied by Thales. A 9-ton-thrust M88 engine would be uprated from the 7.5-ton engine that powers the French Air Force and Navy fighters.
By November 2015 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was said to be in the final stages of negotiations to buy French Rafale fighter jets. Separately, Abu Dhabi [one ofthe UAE Emirates], which was looking to purchase 60 fighters worth an estimated $10 billion, was studying the Dassault-built Rafale after rejecting the four-nation Eurofighter.
By November 2021 negotiations with Abu Dhabi were reportedly "very advanced" for the order of the French combat aircraft, most likely to the F4 standard, the version planned for the Air Force by 2025. If negotiations continue to advance at this rate, it could not be announced before the end of the year. The next tour of Emmanuel Macron in the Gulf, the last of his five-year term, was due to visit Abu Dhabi on December 2, followed by a trip to Doha (Qatar) and then to Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on December 3 and 4.
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