Despite lengthy and ongoing negotiations between France and the UAE for the latter to update its air force with 60 Rafale fighter jets, there is no frustration at the reported delays, a key executive at French defence and civil technology giant Thales has said.
"This can never be frustrating, as these are huge investments with project life spans up to 30 years, decision making processes are understandibly complex and thorough," Thales International Middle East president Olivier Badard told Arabian Business at the launch event of the French firm’s new Dubai office.
Last year, state news agency WAM said that the UAE had been in negotiations to revamp its Mirage fighter fleet with the Dassault-built Rafale in a contract thought to be worth as much as $10bn.
Thales provides the radar systems for the state-of-the-art jet, which is used by the French Air Force and Navy.
The Rafale has so far not yet been sold to any other countries, although Brazil and Kuwait are known to be interested, as well as the UAE.
Asked whether Thales would provide an update on the potential deal, Badard said: “we typically do not comment on ongoing bids of this potential magnitude.”
“All I would say is that France and the UAE have a long history of cooperating in the area of military aircraft fighters and we’ll see what the UAE ultimately decide to do.”
Badard confirmed to reporters at the event that Thales’ Middle East and Western Asia division pulled in around $1.7bn of revenue last year, around ten percent of total global operations.
Asked whether he saw this percentage increasing in the future, the regional head said that the division had been earmarked as one that had greater potential for growth than its more domestic markets in Europe.
In the UAE, Thales has worked closely with local authorities, providing infrastructural systems both for the Dubai Metro and Dubai International Airport’s new Terminal 3. The firm has a total of 500 staff based in the country.