The first three Dassault Rafale combat aircraft for the Egyptian Air Force (EAF) were handed over in a ceremony today at Istres airbase in southern France. Tomorrow, EAF pilots will fly them to Egypt, with a refueling at Solenzara air force base in Corsica, in time for a flypast in front of Egyptian president Abdel Fatah Al Sissi on August 6, at the ceremony to inaugurate the expansion of the Suez Canal. Egypt became the first export customer for the French jet last February, ordering 24.
“The Rafale will tremendously increase the defense capacity of Egypt in our struggle against terrorism,” said Ehab Badawi, the Egyptian Ambassador to France. “Our partnership with Egypt and the French Air Force was successful," said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation. “In about six months, we were able to train the pilots and mechanics, do some modifications on the Rafales and organize a logistic chain for spare parts,” Trappier continued.
Four EAF pilots—three F-16 and one ex-Mirage 2000–have been trained by Dassault and the French air force at Saint-Dizier airbase. Meanwhile, Dassault trained about 30 Egyptian mechanics. Weapons for the EAF Rafales will be delivered in the coming weeks, roughly corresponding to those that arm French Rafales (including Mica and AASM missiles). In few weeks, another team of four Egyptian pilots will start their training in France.
Regarding the production of the Rafale for Egypt, no change has been announced. Another batch of three fighters will be delivered at the beginning of 2016, diverted from the production quota of French Air Force Rafales. However, Trappier revealed today that a decision to increase the current rate of production (11 per year) has been recently been taken. He previously said that this move would be made only once India had confirmed its order for 36.
“We are still confident about the Indian contract but we are in the heart of the negotiation,” he said today. He told AIN that since the Rafale production cycle is about three years, “we want to be ready to deliver to new customers.” Deliveries to the second confirmed export customer— Qatar—are scheduled to start in early 2018.