The deal includes the largest ever overseas sale of France's Rafale warplane.

The contracts were signed as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the UAE on the first stop of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf.
The contracts were signed as French President Emmanuel Macron visited the UAE on the first stop of a two-day visit to the Persian Gulf. (Thomas Samson / AFP)

The United Arab Emirates has signed a record $15.6 billion (14-billion-euro) contract for 80 Rafale warplanes and committed billions of euros in other deals as French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off a Gulf tour.

The biggest international order ever made for the French jets came as Macron held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Friday at the start of a two-day trip which will also take in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

"French engagement in the region, active cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the clear positions we have taken have allowed us to grow closer with the United Arab Emirates," Macron told journalists in Dubai where he was accompanied by a large delegation, including Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defence Minister Parly.

"And at a time when questions are being asked about other long-term partners, I think this reinforces the position of France," he added, describing France as a "solid" and "trustworthy" ally that "sticks to its commitments".

Defence Minister Parly called it a "historic contract" which will contribute "directly to regional stability".

"This is an outcome of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their capacity to act together for their autonomy and security," the French presidency said in a statement.

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Bulking up UAE's fleet

The resource-rich UAE, one of the French defence industry's biggest customers, also inked an order for 12 Caracal military transport helicopters for a total bill of more than $19 billion (17 billion euros).

By snapping up the fighter aircraft, the UAE is eclipsing the fleets of Gulf rival Qatar, which has bought 36 of the planes, and Egypt which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 earlier this year.

The F4 model Rafales, currently under development, will be delivered from 2027.

The Rafale order is the biggest made internationally for the Dassault Aviation aircraft since it entered service in 2004.

It follows the collapse of a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia in September that left Paris fuming after Canberra negotiated a new defence pact with London and Washington.

The new order will replace the UAE's 60 Mirage 2000-9 jets bought in 1998, and comes 10 years after failed negotiations by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Since then, The Rafale has made a breakthrough in the international market despite competition from American and other European manufacturers. It now has six foreign clients including Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece and Croatia.

READ MORE: How the UAE, Russia and France have teamed up in Libya

Source: AFP