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Rafale: UAE and France strike deal for largest jet order during Macron visit

Deal for French warplanes is worth at least $15bn and will further cement relations between France and the Emirates
Other than the French army, the UAE deal will be the largest order for the French weapons manufacturer (AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has made the world's largest order of Rafale fighter jets from France, in a move that aims to further cement relations between the two countries.

Worth nearly $15bn, the UAE deal is the biggest order of the warplane outside of the French armed forces and comes after deals this year were made with Croatia, Egypt and Greece.

The order was placed ahead of a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the Gulf, where he will also visit Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Since coming to power, Macron has forged a strong relationship with UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed - also known as MBZ. 

France also has a permanent military base in Abu Dhabi.

"In addition to the presence of three French military bases on UAE territory, this mutual trust translates into the acquisition of 80 Rafale planes, 12 Caracal helicopters, and associated elements," the French presidency said in a statement after a signing ceremony between MBZ and Macron on the sidelines of the Dubai Expo 2020.

In 2011, Abu Dhabi had said a proposal by France to purchase 60 Rafale fighter jets was "uncompetitive and unworkable".