The French Rafales performed the strike with GBU-12 laser guided, marking their targets with Damocles targeting pods. Photo: French Air Force, SIRPA

Qatar has agreed to buy 24 Dassault Aviation-built Rafale fighter jets in a deal worth 6.3 billion euros ($7 billion), the French government said on Thursday.

President Francois Hollande’s office said the deal was confirmed personally by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. Hollande will travel to Doha on May 4 to sign the contract.

France will start delivering Rafale fighter jets to Qatar from mid-2018 at the rate of 11 per year, the French Defense Ministry said.

The contract — the third this year for Dassault after deals to sell Rafale jets to Egypt and India — also includes MBDA missiles, and the training of 36 Qatari pilots and 100 technicians by the French army, the French Defense Ministry said.

before heading to Saudi Arabia as an honorary guest at a summit of Gulf Arab leaders.

The Rafale sales have lifted French arms exports this year to about 15 billion euros and have been a welcome boost for Dassault, which had been under increasing pressure to sell the plane overseas after years of failures.

Other export prospects for the Rafale are still pending, after Dassault has resumed discussions over potential fighter sales to the UAE, where the French fighter is competing with the Eurofighter Typhoon on an order of 60 planes for the replacement of the Emirate’s Air Force’s Mirage 2000 fleet.