Rafale fighter jet
Rafale fighter jet Reuters

France on Monday signed an agreement with Egypt for the first foreign sale of its Rafale fighter jet, in a deal that will boost Cairo’s military as it tackles jihadists, AFP reported.

Paris hopes the 5.2 billion euro ($5.9 billion) deal for 24 Rafale fighters to be delivered later this year will prompt others to snap up its latest combat jet.

For Egypt, the agreement is a show of support for President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his Islamist predecessor in 2013 and wants to break a U.S. monopoly over Egypt’s arms supplies.

In October of 2013, three months after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted, the United States announced that it would withdraw a significant portion of its military aid to Egypt in an act of protest over the violence in Egypt following the ouster.

Several months ago, however, Washington resumed some of the annual $1.5 billion in aid to Cairo, including 10 Apache helicopter gunships for counterterrorism efforts in the Sinai Peninsula. 

France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Sisi oversaw Monday’s signing of the deal at the presidential palace in Cairo.

“Our two countries are pursuing a common struggle against terrorism,” Le Drian said during the signing ceremony, according to AFP.

“Egypt’s stability is an important element in the stability of the countries overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, especially your country that has witnessed recent terrorist events,” Egyptian Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi told Le Drian.

The signing came as the Egyptian army conducted airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) targets in Libya, including training camps and arms depots, after the group published a video showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians it abducted in Libya.

Before heading to Cairo, Le Drian had said the beheadings of the 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians was an “additional reason for security” for Egypt.

The sale is welcome news to cash-strapped France, which is even diverting three jets away from its own air force for the delivery.

“This contract puts Rafale at the top of the pyramid of combat aircraft,” Le Drian said later Monday, according to AFP.

French President Francois Hollande said the agreement – clinched in only three months of negotiations – provided Cairo with “a quality aircraft” and was important for Egypt “taking into account the threats existing around the country.”