Dassault offer on jets comes under fire

The terms for buying Rafale fighter jets were "uncompetitive and impractical," Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, says.

The French company Dassault has been in the running to supply 60 Rafale fighter jets worth $10 billion to the UAE. Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters
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The multibillion-dollar contest to supply the UAE military with fighter jets was blown open yesterday after the terms offered by the front runner, the French maker of the Rafale aircraft, were branded "uncompetitive."

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The comments by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, are likely to give further hope to the builders of the Eurofighter Typhoon and the US plane maker Boeing that are vying with Dassault, the French manufacturer of Rafale, to sell jets to the UAE Armed Forces.

In view of the particular interest of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, France had offered "everything it could diplomatically and politically to see the deal through", Sheikh Mohammed said yesterday, in comments published by WAM.

"Our current bilateral relations are stronger than ever, and Dassault remains on the top of our list. But, unfortunately, it seems that Dassault does not realise that political will and all diplomatic efforts cannot eclipse uncompetitive and impractical commercial requirements."

The news sent Dassault's stock tumbling by more than 7 per cent during trading in Paris yesterday.

Dassault had appeared to be the front runner to supply 60 Rafale jets to the UAE in a deal believed to be valued at US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn).

The French company has been in talks with the country's officials since 2008 and had frequently made confident statements about sealing the order.

Mr Sarkozy and other senior French politicians have also done their best to help to secure the sale.

But it emerged on Sunday that the European consortium building the Eurofighter had been approached by the UAE Government for a briefing on the capabilities of the Typhoon.

The consortium, called Eurofighter, was invited to submit an offer to supply the jets. Boeingis also in the running.

"Boeing has submitted two briefs to the UAE on the F-15 and F-18 programmes and we continue to work with the UAE on their requirements," said a Boeing spokesman.

The UAE had previously asked Dassault for more powerful engines, longer-range radar systems and upgraded electronic warfare suites in the Rafale than the versions in service with the French military.

The Rafale and the Typhoon took part in the Nato air campaign to help to removeColonel Muammar Qaddafi from power in Libya. The UAE sent a total of 12 Mirage and F-16 fighter jets to the country.

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