PARIS --- Qatar this morning officially signed contracts for 24 Rafale fighters and an extended range of weapons, as well as a government-to-government umbrella agreement guaranteeing the contract terms and personnel training.
The acquisition contracts were signed by the chief executives of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trapper, and MBDA, Antoine Bouvier, with the Qatari negotiator, General Ahmad al-Malki. A separate framework agreement, notably covering the training of Qatari personnel in France, was signed by the two countries’ defense ministers, Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah and Jean-Yves Le Drian.
On Sunday, Le Drian made a detour by the United Arab Emirates to discuss a separate sale of 60 Rafales on which talks “are progressing well,” according to French defense officials.
The signature ceremony in Doha’s Royal Palace was attended by French President François Hollande and the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Tamim ben Hamad Al-Thani, and by several ministers from both countries.
Hollande said Qatar had made the right choice,” while Trappier added that it was a "success for Dassault" and "the result of hard work by the team."
Trappier also told reporters that Kuwait was evaluating the Rafale. The Qatar sale was "a good sign for all the countries of the region" because now they would see the capabilities of the aircraft,” Reuters reported him as saying. "It's a little bit the snowball effect - except it's in the desert," he said.
Qatar’s order is valued at €6.3 billion for the first 24 aircraft, a large range of weapons including Mica and Meteor air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles supplied by MBDA and AAA2M precision-guided bombs made by Sagem. Also included is training of 36 pilots, about 100 ground personnel, and other specialists, including intelligence specialists as Rafale can also be used for electronic support and reconnaissance missions.
The contract also includes an option for a further 12 aircraft.
Qatar will receive a mix of six two-seaters and 18 singe-seaters, with deliveries planned to begin in mid-2018, and continuing at a rate of one aircraft per month. Initially, Egypt and Qatar will take aircraft initially ordered by France, whose deliveries will be scaled back until 2019.
Trappier said that Dassault and its partners will quickly double their production rate to two aircraft per month, but when India’s planned order for 36 aircraft is signed a further increase will be necessary. Over the next two or three years, this will lead to the creation of “several thousand additional jobs,” Trappier said.