Egypt has signed a contract with France to acquire 30 Dassault Rafale multirole fighter jets. The deal is reported to be worth 3.75 billion euros and is just the latest sale of arms to Egypt to stir up controversy in European countries.
Earlier this year, Egypt took delivery of the first of two Fincantieri-built European multi-purpose frigates (FREMM), while the second was delivered in mid-April. That deal sparked outrage in Italy among those who oppose selling weapons to Egypt, given its government’s human rights record. Similar concerns have been raised in France with this and other arm sales to Egypt.
As we reported back in January, the FREMM deal with Italy (worth 1.2 billion euros) had been rumoured to be part of a much bigger package totalling 11 billion euros for the sale of 24 Eurofighter Typhoons, a satellite, trainer aircraft, and more FREMM and patrol ships.
The confirmation that Cairo will in fact acquire more Rafales (it already operates 24) may indeed shut the door on Italy’s alleged plan to sell Eurofighters to the Egyptians. Though, it has to be noted, Egypt already operates a uniquely diverse array of fighter aircraft, currently including Russian-made Su-35s and MiG-29s, French-made Mirages and Rafales, as well as U.S.-made F-16s.
Adding Eurofighters to the fleet would undoubtedly add another layer of complication to the logistics of keeping so many different aircraft flying. Yet, clearly, neither streamlining maintenance nor cost-effectiveness appear to be at the top of Egypt’s priorities, with the country instead trying to avoid overreliance on this or that supplier.
But the Rafale and Eurofighter occupy roughly the same niche in terms of capabilities, although the French aircraft has a slight edge as a multirole fighter, while the Eurofighter was designed with more of a focus on air superiority. This makes the acquisition of Eurofighters from the Italians rather unlikely, Cairo’s knack for diversifying fighter jet supply notwithstanding.