Istres – Egypt on Monday took delivery of three Rafale fighter jets from France, the first of 24 warplanes sold in a $5.6bn deal earlier this year.
Egyptian authorities took charge of the planes at an air base in southern France, and they will be flown to Cairo by specially trained pilots on Tuesday.
Cairo is hoping to boost its military presence as it faces an unstable Libya to the west and threats from militants linked to the Islamic State group in its Sinai Peninsula to the east.
For Egypt, the agreement is also a show of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013 and wants to break a US monopoly over arms sales to Cairo.
The overall deal also includes contracts for missiles and for an FREMM multi-mission frigate from naval group DCNS.
However, the deal has sparked concern from campaign groups worried about Cairo’s human rights record.
The head of Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the warplanes, thanked the French military “without whose support this success would not have been possible”.
Planes were diverted away from the French military base for the handover ceremony.
In a further coup for French military exports, India in April ordered 36 Rafales in a multi-billion-euro deal that took years to clinch.
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