PARIS ― French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has welcomed Qatar’s order for 28 NH90 military helicopters, pointing up the political and economic significance of the deal with European consortium NHIndustries.

“The Qatari decision further strengthens the strategic and military partnership between our two countries and constitutes a further export success for France,” the ministry said in a statement.

Qatar boosted the buy to 28 units, reported to be worth €3 billion (U.S. $3.7 billion), after signaling interest four years ago for 22 NH90s, worth close to €2 billion.

NHIndustries is 62.5 percent held by French company Airbus Helicopters, 32 percent by Italian firm Leonardo and 5.5 percent by Fokker.

Parly played an active role in pitching and closing the helicopter deal, the ministry said.

“During recent conversations with the Qatari defense minister, Florence Parly took the opportunity on several occasions to present the NH90 helicopter, operated by the French forces, and whose exceptional military capabilities make it an instrument of sovereignty of the first order,” the ministry said.

Arms exports are part of the French defense and security policy, the ministry said. Foreign sales are “vital” to the defense industry and the services as they contribute to “strategic autonomy.” The deals also safeguard jobs, industry and boost French influence in the world, the ministry said. Parly was fully committed to working with the French president to win arms export deals.

Of the total order, the 16-strong batch in the tactical transport version for the Army will be built at Airbus Helicopter’s plant at Marignane, southern France, the ministry said.

The remaining 12 units will be in the naval configuration, which will be assembled in Italy, Defense News previously reported.

The Qatari order was announced March 14 at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference in Qatar. Qatar also ordered 16 H125 light helicopters for training, Airbus Helicopters said.

Qatar has also exercised an option to buy a further 12 Rafale fighter jets to add to a previous order of 36 units from Dassault Aviation and has signed a letter of intent to order 490 VBCI infantry troop carriers from French state-owned Nexter.

Doha has also ordered the Eurofighter Typhoon and F-15QA fighters.

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