DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates is awaiting final assurances from France and the Iraqi government to sell its fleet of Dassault Mirage 2000-9s before completing their deal for 60 Rafale fighters, Defense News has learned.

The UAE has been looking to sell its fleet of Mirage fighters to the Iraqi Air Force since 2011 and over the years discussions have faltered due to France blocking the deal, according to a UAE government official and a French source knowledgeable about the negotiations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The intended deal would see the UAE initially provide 10 aircraft to the Iraqi Air Force, with the funds paid directly to Dassault as part of the down payment for the UAE's Rafale deal.

The well-informed French source stated that in its efforts to reduce the costs of the deal and finalize the agreement the French government has waived military service fees involved in the contract reducing the overall cost by 10 percent.

"To facilitate the Rafale deal, the government has taken over the 'airco' cost of training, maintenance support and other military-provided services to reduce the cost for the UAE," he said.

The UAE source stated that the expected cost of each aircraft is expected to be around $250 million for a total cost of $15 billion.

According to the UAE source, the latest discussions on the deal for the Rafale was on Jan. 18 at the al-Bahr Palace in Abu Dhabi.

During a visit to Abu Dhabi this week, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said about the Rafale deal: "There are continuing talks, we are optimistic (French Defence Minister) Jean-Yves Le Drian and I ... things look positive."

"Agreements only become a reality after they are signed. However, we touched on this subject with the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan when we met with him on Monday in Abu Dhabi," Fabius said.

The Iraqi Angle

The UAE is in discussions with Iraq's government to have the Mirages operate in Kurdistan, the UAE source stated.

"We want to provide these fighters to the Kurdish territories but the Iraqi central government has requested the provision of these fighters to them," the source said.

The source added that since September, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has made a number of visits to the UAE and held extensive discussions on the matter.

"The Iraqi government assured us that the Kurdish territories will be protected and we are awaiting the French decision now," he stated.

According to Wathaq al-Hashimi, director of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies, Iraq has presented its case to the UAE and is very keen to acquire the aircraft.

"The ball now is in the UAE's court, the Iraqi government wants the aircraft to be based in Al Balad Air Base and will be used in operations from Kurdistan to Al Faw in the south," Hashimi said.

In January 2015, the UAE offered up to 10 Mirage 2000-9s to the Iraqi Air Force, following a visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Abu Dhabi.

The same UAE source said at the time that the UAE is trying to fortify Iraq's security from north to south, specifically the areas from Baghdad to Erbil.

"Mainly, Erbil because many UAE strategic interests are there with regards to oil and gas investments as well as others," he said last year.

The UAE has 36 multirole Mirage 2000 fighters that have been in service since 1986, 30 of which have been extensively refurbished and then upgraded to the same standard as the newer fleet of 32 Mirage 2000-9s delivered starting in 2003 by France's Dassault Aviation.

The technologies and advanced capabilities that the Mirage 2000-9s incorporate include Dassault's "Rafale technology," with similar modular avionics, an LCD glass cockpit with full night-vision goggles compatibility, and advanced sensors and systems, according to the Bader 21 purchase agreement signed in 1998.

At the core of the Mirage 2000-9's navigation and attack system is a Thales- and Dassault-developed modular data-processing unit similar to the one used in the Rafale. This serves as the mission computer, manages the navigation and attack system, controls the cockpit display system and generates symbology for the head-up and head-down displays. As a result, the Mirage 2000-9 is claimed to enjoy a world-beating, highly intuitive man-machine interface.


Twitter: @Awadz

Awad Mustafa was a Middle East and Africa correspondent for Defense News.

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