Egypt orders 30 more Rafales

The Egyptian Air Force (EAF) has ordered a further 30 Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters to supplement the 24 aircraft previously ordered.

Dassault Aviation confirmed the deal in an announcement on May 4, noting that when all 54 have been delivered, the EAF will be the second largest operator of the type in the world, after the French Air and Space Force (FASF). Egypt’s Defence Ministry had confirmed the deal the day before Dassault Aviation’s announcement, saying that the deal would be financed by a loan that would be repaid over a ten-year period.

Rafale DMs [Dassault Aviation]
Three of the Egyptian Air Force two-seat Rafale DMs from the original batch fly in formation on July 16, 2015, just before deliveries began. Dassault Aviation

Éric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, said: “This new order is proof of the unfailing bond that unites Egypt, the first foreign user of the Rafale, as it was for the Mirage 2000, with Dassault Aviation for nearly 50 years. It is also a tribute to the Rafale’s operational quality, as this is the second time an export customer has chosen to order additional aircraft.”

Egypt had signed a contract for its first 24 Rafales, comprising 16 two-seat Rafale DMs and eight single-seat Rafale EMs) on February 16, 2015. Deliveries began with the arrival of the initial batch of aircraft in Cairo on July 21, 2015. The 24th and final aircraft was handed over to the EAF in July 2019. The exact number of single- and two-seat aircraft to be ordered in this latest deal has not yet been announced.

This announcement comes as orders and interest in the Dassault Rafale has steadily increased in recent years. In 2015 alone, the type was ordered by the governments of Egypt, India and Qatar. At present, the Indian Air Force will employ 36 aircraft in total, comprising 28 single-seat Rafale EHs and eight two-seat Rafale DHs.

Initially, Qatar ordered 18 single-seat Rafale EQs and six two-seat Rafale DQs for use by the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF). Qatar was the first export customer to activate its option to procure 12 more examples of the multi-role fighter, effectively boosting the QEAF’s fleet to 36 aircraft – comprising 27 Rafale EQs and nine Rafale DQs.

French A330 MRTT refuels Egyptian Rafales [FASF/Jean-Luc Brunet]
Three Egyptian Air Force-operated Rafale DMs receive fuel from a French Air and Space Force (FASF) Airbus A330 MRTT Phénix over Egypt during Exercise Skyros in January 2021. FASF/Jean Luc Brunet

The number of Dassault Rafale operators again received a boost on January 24, 2021, when the Greek government officially ordered 18 aircraft, comprising six new-build examples and 12 second-hand fighters from the FASF. Deliveries are set to begin this summer, with the last aircraft scheduled to be handed over to the Hellenic Air Force in 2023.

Greece may be the first of a few prospective nations to acquire the type going forward, given that Dassault has offered the Rafale to both Finland and Switzerland in their respective fighter replacement competitions. Both countries are expected to announce the winning bid in these competitions by the end of this year. Additionally, Indonesia is reported to be very interested in potentially acquiring a fleet of Rafales, although no firm announcements or contracts have been issued at present.

There’s no doubt that the multi-role fighter’s performance on the export market has improved over the last decade. This comes down to the latest enhancements made to the fighter in recent years, especially following the FASF’s highly anticipated F-3R upgrade. The platform’s ability to employ a variety of munitions – including precision-guided, stand-off weapons – have also made the aircraft more attractive to potential customers on the export market.