In an interesting development of the UAE’s F-35 deal, the country has now finally inked the deal to procure 50 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets and 18 MQ-9 Reaper armed UAVs from Washington, just a few hours before President Biden’s inauguration.
The news was first unveiled by Reuters, which quoted its sources stating the estimated cost of the deal to be around $23 billion. The country had been desperately seeking F-35s from the United States and the decision was taken after considering Israel’s position on the matter.
“The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets made by Lockheed Martin and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize relations with Israel last August,” Reuters reported.
With the deal, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Raytheon would be the prime contractors. The Trump administration had officially notified lawmakers of his plan to ink the deal with the arab country back in November last year. The fifth-generation aircraft accounts for roughly half of the total dollar amount at $10.4 billion, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Also included are air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions worth $10 billion, and nearly $3 billion worth of Reaper drones.
In the statement, Pompeo stated, “This is in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran. The proposed sale will make the UAE even more capable and interoperable with U.S. partners in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”
According to the sources, the F-35s supplied to the UAE would not interfere with the Israeli systems and would maintain the ‘qualitative military edge’ of Jerusalem in the middle east. Lockheed Martin had been approached by Washington to study ways to make UAE’s F-35s more ‘visible’ to Israeli radars, however, it is not sure if this could be achieved by making modifications to the jet or by providing IDF with better radars.
UAE is involved in many middle eastern conflicts, mainly in Yemen, where its troops are supporting the Southern Transitional Council government, against ISIS, and in Libyan Civil War (supporting Gen. Haftar’s LNA), and against ISIS insurgency in Sinai.