The United Arab Emirates has signed a deal for 80 French-made Rafale fighter jets, the biggest international order ever made for the warplanes, officials said on Friday during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron.
The UAE, one of the French defence industry's biggest customers, also agreed to buy 12 Caracal military transport helicopters, the French presidency said in a statement.
"This is an outcome of the strategic partnership between the two countries, consolidating their capacity to act together for their autonomy and security," the statement said.
France said the deal for the jets and helicopters is worth around €17 billion.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly called the deal 'historic' in a tweet and said it contributed 'directly to regional stability'.
The Rafale order is the biggest made internationally for the aircraft since it entered into service in 2004.
By snapping up the Rafales, built by Dassault, the UAE is following the lead of Gulf rival Qatar, which has bought 36 of the planes, and Egypt which ordered 24 in 2015 and 30 earlier this year.
Dassault shares rose 6 percent on the announcement.
The F4 model planes, which are still undergoing a €2-billion development programme scheduled to be completed in 2024, will be delivered from 2027.
The on-off negotiations for the Rafale fighter jets have been going on for more than a decade with Abu Dhabi publicly rebuffing France's offer to supply 60 planes in 2011 as "uncompetitive and unworkable".
The Rafale has since made a breakthrough on the international market despite competition from US and other European manufacturers. It now has six foreign clients including Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece and Croatia.
The UAE was already the fifth biggest customer for the French defence industry at €4.7 billion from 2011-2020, according to a parliamentary report.
Paris has a permanent military base in the Emirati capital.
Defence sources say the Rafale would replace the Mirage fleet and is unlikely to displace the American F-35 as the UAE continues to hedge its security with two major suppliers, France and the United States.
Macron's visit to the UAE is part of a two-day trip to the Gulf that includes stops in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)