Rafale Sales Help France Reach Arms Exports Record

France said Wednesday its arms exports hit a record last year, helped by Rafale aircraft sales, in a context of rising global defense spending after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

French weapons exports totaled 27 billion euros ($30 billion) in 2022, up from 11.7 billion euros the previous year, the ministry said in its annual report to parliament, seen by AFP.

France is the world’s third biggest arms exporting nation, after the United States and Russia.

A contract with the United Arab Emirates for 80 Rafale combat aircraft alone contributed more than 16 billion euros to the French total.

Indonesia placed a firm order for six Rafales, as did Greece, further cementing the global success of the fighter made by Dassault Aviation.

Since then, India has signed a memorandum of understanding for 26 Rafale for navy use, after 36 were delivered for its air force.

Greece last year also ordered three French defense and intervention frigates, and signed maintenance and associated weaponry contracts.

Poland in December agreed to buy two French observation satellites.

“The appreciation of French weaponry goes beyond the Rafale,” Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu said in the report. “It has become a global reference in a wide capacity range, including missiles, frigates, submarines, artillery, helicopters radars and observation satellites.”

The French arms exports record comes as global military spending is higher than at any point in the past three decades.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), worldwide military spending in 2022 — the year that Russia attacked Ukraine — reached $2.24 trillion, representing 2.2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

Nearly two-thirds of French arms exports went to the Middle East, some 23 percent to Europe, and eight percent to Asia and Oceania.

France’s biggest arms customers between 2013 and 2022 were UAE, Egypt, Qatar, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece.

NGOs often criticize France for delivering arms to what they say are authoritarian regimes, but the defense ministry said in the report that France always respected its “international commitments” and weapons exports were subject to “very strict rules” and export controls.

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