A long-awaited deal by France’s Dassault to sell at least 60 Rafale warplanes to the UAE was branded “uncompetitive and unworkable” by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made every effort “diplomatically and politically” to close the contract, but Dassault’s offer had failed to meet the mark, said Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
“Regrettably, Dassault seems unaware that all the diplomatic and political will in the world cannot overcome uncompetitive and unworkable commercial terms,” Sheikh Mohammed, deputy of the UAE’s armed forces, said in a statement issued by state-run news agency WAM.
France said earlier this week it was still confident of striking a first export deal for the Rafale. French air chief General Jean-Paul Palomeros said Sunday the contract was unlikely to be derailed, despite news the UAE was evaluating rival warplanes.
“Getting information on different systems is fine,” he said on the sidelines of Dubai Airshow. "I know the Emirates air force is very keen with Rafale, that's for sure because they told me that they like the aircraft, they know how operational it is."
The European arms consortium Eurofighter briefed UAE officials on Oct 17 on its Typhoon combat jet, a rival to the Rafale. Boeing has also said it briefed officials from the Gulf state recently on its F-15 and F-18 combat planes.
"We have not responded to a detailed set of requirements or anything like that. We have been asked for information on both platforms [F15 and F18]," Paul Oliver, vice president Middle East & Africa, International business development, Defence, Space & Security, told Reuters in an interview.
"We have provided through the US government, information on these platforms. We have been providing information off and on for over a year."
France is struggling to secure a foreign buyer for the Rafale, which is more developed than fourth generation combat aircraft but lags behind fifth generation multi-role fighters such as Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II.
The United Arab Emirates has pressed for the aircraft's engines to be upgraded with extra thrust and for better radar, industry sources have said, but Palomeros said UAE officials are satisfied with the plane.
The UAE's former air force chief, Major General Khaled al-Buainnain, said this week he believed deal negotiations were more about the cost of the aircraft rather than technical details.
"There's no required enhancements," al-Buainnain said on Saturday. "The UAE has always special requirements. I think the enhancement issue is over, the issue is now financial and contractual. This is a massive project that needs deliberate study."
General Faouzi Abou Farhat, a former senior official of Lebanon's air force, said the Rafale was more expensive than similar warplanes available for sale such at the Typhoon and F-16.
"The issue is they can't agree on a price," he said.
Both the Rafale and Typhoon warplanes were used in Libya during NATO operations that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi.
The Eurofighter is built by Britain's BAE Systems, Finmeccanica of Italy and European aerospace group EADS on behalf of Germany and Spain.