On January 20th, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reportedly approved a deal to purchase up to 50 F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft and 18 MQ-9 Reaper drones from the United States.
According to Reuters, the agreement was one of the final acts of the Trump administration, occurring just an hour before President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
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 in August 2020.
The U.S. State Department and the UAE Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The agreement delineates the cost of the aircraft, technical specifications and the schedule for F-35 deliveries to the UAE, unnamed sources told Reuters.
Those sources could not confirm when the first F-35 is due to be delivered to Abu Dhabi, but stated that an initial proposal stipulated 2027 as one possible date.
The UAE deal was previously estimated at a $23.37 billion value, including 50 F-35A fighters worth $10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97 billion, and $10 billion worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
It’s unclear whether the incoming administration will seek to undo the deal.
Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told reporters in late October that the sale is “something we would look at very, very carefully,” due to U.S. obligations to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge.
The UAE has had the paperwork for more than a week, the people said.
The UAE and the United States had once hoped to have a deal in place in December, but the timing of jet deliveries, their cost, the technology packages and training associated with the deal extended negotiations, the people said.
If this report is true, this was the Trump administration’s final attempt to secure some advantage to its allies in their offensive against the Houthis in Yemen, and also guarantee some sales for the problematic F-35 fighter jet.
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