PARIS — The French government must seek U.S. authorization before selling French Scalp cruise missiles with American components to Egypt, said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
Those U.S. parts on the long-range weapon are critical to its ability to function.
Egypt is in talks with France on exercising an option for 12 Rafale fighter jets, business website La Tribune reported. That option was included in a 2015 contract for 24 twin-jet fighters and weapons from Safran and MBDA.
“This is very sensitive,” Trappier said March 8 at a media conference on 2017 financial results. “This is a government-to-government contract. If there are authorizations, then it is up to the government for the component and the government for the aircraft.”
Dassault has delivered 14 of Egypt’s order for 24 Rafale aircraft.
The French Armed Forces Ministry and MBDA declined to comment.
A U.S. State Department official said that “as a matter of policy, we do not comment on private diplomatic exchanges, and we are restricted under federal law from commenting on issues related to specific commercial defense export licensing cases.”
Egypt was the first export client for the Rafale, which was part of a French arms deal that included a Naval Group multimission frigate and four Gowind corvettes, with options for two more. Egypt went on to buy two Mistral helicopter carriers, which France had bought back from Russia.
Previously, France ran into U.S. authorization problems on a 2013 sale of two Falcon Eye spy satellites to the United Arab Emirates. That contract lapsed, as U.S. authorization under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations for two key components was slow. France eventually closed that deal with the UAE in 2014, but only after then-French President François Hollande and then-U.S. President Barack Obama met at the White House and agreed to speed up the authorization.
Dassault expects a down payment from Qatar “shortly” after exercising an option in December for 12 more Rafale fighters, Trappier said. That adds to an initial order for 24 units. Doha also asked for options for 36 more units.
Asked about legal doubt over the French government-to-government offer of the Rafale to Belgium, Trappier said it was simply up to the Belgian government to exercise its national sovereignty, and decide whether to opt out of its fighter competition and pick the Rafale.
The U.S. and Britain have pitched respectively the F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon in the Belgian tender.
Malaysia is due to hold general elections soon, and Dassault expects to continue talks with the new administration on its offer of the Rafale.
“The discussions will resume with the arrival of the next government,” he said, addressing doubts over Malaysia’s interest in the French fighter following the European Union’s move to curb imports of palm oil. With Britain leaving the EU, Malaysia has signaled a change in interest to the Eurofighter, Reuters reported.
Dassault expects Switzerland to launch a competition soon to replace the F-5 and F-18. The firm has high hopes for the Rafale, the executive said.
A previous Swiss tender picked the Saab Gripen to replace the F-5, but that selection was canceled in a public referendum.
Dassault expects the French government to sign a contract soon for three new Falcon jets for its Epicure airborne universal electronic warfare program, replacing an aging fleet of two Transall Gabriel aircraft. The selection likely will be the 7X or 8X versions of the Falcon twin-engine jets, Trappier said, and the deal will be will be shared with Thales.
Dassault expects Japan will order more Falcon jets for surveillance and electronic warfare on top of the four units already ordered, he said.