Optimism over Rafale fighter jet sale to UAE



ABU DHABI // A top official of Dassault Aviation, the French maker of the Rafale and Mirage fighter jets, has expressed optimism about the prospects of selling the Rafale to the UAE, and denied that the talks are taking longer than expected.

Eric Trappier, the executive vice president of Dassault, also spoke of the broad contours of the company's relationship with the UAE, saying it included upgrading the country's existing Mirage fleet and developing joint ventures with Emirati companies to help promote the local defence industry.

The UAE first indicated in 2008 that it was interested in the Rafale as a possible replacement for the Mirage, but little progress has been reported on the deal so far.

Reports have also emerged that the UAE had sought technical information on the F/A-18 Super Hornet, a direct competitor to the Rafale. However the US company Boeing, which makes the F/A-18, has denied receiving any such request.

Nearly half the UAE's fighter fleet is made up of the French Mirage 2000 and the more advanced Mirage 2000-9, or Dash 9. There are 60 Mirages in service and almost 80 F-16s.

The Mirage 2000-9 was a significant collaboration between the UAE and Dassault, said Mr Trappier. "Our first duty is to support the UAE Air Force. The programme is going well, and we are continuing to upgrade the Mirage," he said.

The UAE awarded Dassault a contract on Tuesday to upgrade the armaments and software on the country's Mirage fleet in a deal worth Dh112 million.

Before acquiring the existing Mirage fleet, the UAE operated French Mirage 3 fighters. "We hope that Rafale could be the next step," Mr Trappier said.

But he said his company would continue upgrading the UAE Mirages as the Air Force asked for more improvements.

The Mirage 2000-9 incorporates many of the requirements requested by the UAE military. But "as [in] any programme for a fighter in the world, step by step there are new requests and new requirements", he said.

While talks on the Rafale continue, the company is working with the local Emirati defence sector on developing technology, education and manufacturing bases that can support the Rafale, he said.

The UAE confirmed that the military's technical committees are studying the Rafale, but Maj Gen Obeid al Ketbi said this did not indicate the UAE was necessarily leaning towards purchasing it. He also did not say if the Rafale was facing any competition to replace the Mirage.

Gen al Ketbi is the spokesman for the International Defence Exhibition (Idex), which ends today.

Mr Trappier declined to say when the deal could be concluded, saying the decision rests with the Government.

"I am optimistic," he said. "I will not tell you that this could be signed today, tomorrow, or after tomorrow. The decision is mainly in the hands of the UAE Air Force and the Government of the UAE."

He added that "we've had this very long relationship … with the UAE. We are very optimistic because the next logical step is the Rafale.

He said his company would "try to finalise a programme with all the annexes, technical, logistics, training, offsets, the partnerships with some companies".

Other Gulf countries besides the UAE have expressed interest in the Rafale, but Saudi Arabia was not one of them, said Mr Trappier.

He said that the deal was not taking longer than expected, noting that Mirage negotiations had taken a similar amount of time.

"I think it's a big contract and they are happy with the Mirage," he said. "There is no hurry. If there is a hurry, we are also ready, but it is up to the UAE authorities … to decide when and how."

He said the UAE had asked for advancements to the standard Rafale, including improvements to software and an antenna. The French government, also a Dassault client, has also asked for some changes.

But he did not cite a price estimate for those changes, whose costs were rumoured to be among the reasons why the deal has been delayed. He said the improvements sought by the UAE or France would be paid by the country requesting them.

Mr Trappier did deny that the cost of the changes had led to a delay, saying it was simply a large programme that needed time.

He said the UAE was right to think about the Rafale's capabilities in terms of its long-term needs, and was always looking to the future.

"There are some discussions to improve the basic aircraft into what could be the Rafale of the year 2020, 2025, 2030," he said.

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Etihad Airways operates seasonal flights from Abu Dhabi to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Services depart the UAE on Wednesdays and Sundays with outbound flights stopping briefly in Rome, return flights are non-stop. Fares start from Dh3,315, flights operate until September 18, 2022. 

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Important questions to consider

1. Where on the plane does my pet travel?

There are different types of travel available for pets:

  • Manifest cargo
  • Excess luggage in the hold
  • Excess luggage in the cabin

Each option is safe. The feasibility of each option is based on the size and breed of your pet, the airline they are traveling on and country they are travelling to.

 

2. What is the difference between my pet traveling as manifest cargo or as excess luggage?

If traveling as manifest cargo, your pet is traveling in the front hold of the plane and can travel with or without you being on the same plane. The cost of your pets travel is based on volumetric weight, in other words, the size of their travel crate.

If traveling as excess luggage, your pet will be in the rear hold of the plane and must be traveling under the ticket of a human passenger. The cost of your pets travel is based on the actual (combined) weight of your pet in their crate.

 

3. What happens when my pet arrives in the country they are traveling to?

As soon as the flight arrives, your pet will be taken from the plane straight to the airport terminal.

If your pet is traveling as excess luggage, they will taken to the oversized luggage area in the arrival hall. Once you clear passport control, you will be able to collect them at the same time as your normal luggage. As you exit the airport via the ‘something to declare’ customs channel you will be asked to present your pets travel paperwork to the customs official and / or the vet on duty. 

If your pet is traveling as manifest cargo, they will be taken to the Animal Reception Centre. There, their documentation will be reviewed by the staff of the ARC to ensure all is in order. At the same time, relevant customs formalities will be completed by staff based at the arriving airport. 

 

4. How long does the travel paperwork and other travel preparations take?

This depends entirely on the location that your pet is traveling to. Your pet relocation compnay will provide you with an accurate timeline of how long the relevant preparations will take and at what point in the process the various steps must be taken.

In some cases they can get your pet ‘travel ready’ in a few days. In others it can be up to six months or more.

 

5. What vaccinations does my pet need to travel?

Regardless of where your pet is traveling, they will need certain vaccinations. The exact vaccinations they need are entirely dependent on the location they are traveling to. The one vaccination that is mandatory for every country your pet may travel to is a rabies vaccination.

Other vaccinations may also be necessary. These will be advised to you as relevant. In every situation, it is essential to keep your vaccinations current and to not miss a due date, even by one day. To do so could severely hinder your pets travel plans.

Source: Pawsome Pets UAE

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