Sale of 50 F-35 Stealth Jets to United Arab Emirates Will Move Ahead

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
December 15, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021

The United States has announced that it’s advancing on a $23 billion defense deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the Arab state threatened to pull out following disagreements regarding issues concerning Chinese espionage in the country.

The deal includes 50 top-of-the-range F-35 Lightning II stealth jets from Lockheed Martin valued at about $10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B drones worth $3 billion, and $10 billion in advanced munitions. Only certain countries are allowed to purchase the U.S.-made F-35s, as their unmatched stealth technology is being kept under wraps by the U.S. government.

The deal to sell F-35s to the UAE government was signed after former President Donald Trump initiated the Abraham Accords, under which there was a normalization of relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain. However, Washington needed to ensure that Israel had a military edge when it came to firepower in the Arabian Gulf region.

“We’ve wanted to make sure, for example, that our commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge is assured, so we wanted to make sure that we could do a thorough review of any technologies that are sold or transferred to other partners in the region, including the UAE,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec. 15, as he confirmed moving ahead with the deal.

The Biden administration had raised suspicions regarding the deal, including concerns about the UAE’s dependence on Huawei’s 5G technology, which could result in sensitive technology being leaked to Beijing.

Washington had put pressure on the UAE to reduce its exposure to Chinese telecom companies, especially in military-sensitive areas, and talks regarding the issue had dragged on for more than a year without being resolved. This resulted in the UAE government threatening to pull out of the deal, citing increasing U.S. pressure.

“The UAE has informed the U.S. that it will suspend discussions to acquire the F-35,” a UAE official told The Wall Street Journal. “Technical requirements, sovereign operational restrictions, and the cost/benefit analysis led to the reassessment.”

According to the Journal, the letter was written by a relatively low-level employee in the Arab nation’s government, indicating that it could be a negotiating tactic before a visit by a UAE military delegation to the Pentagon.

The UAE had purchased defense equipment worth more than $19 billion, including 80 Rafale jets and 12 Caracal helicopters, from French companies Dassault Aviation and Airbus more than a week ago, as Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan has strengthened his relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron.

However, the United States “remains the UAE’s preferred provider for advanced defense requirements,” a UAE official told Reuters regarding the back-and-forth concerning defense purchases.

“The Biden–Harris administration remains committed to the proposed sales of F-35 aircraft, the MQ-9B, and munitions, even as we continue consultations to ensure that we have a clear, mutual understanding of Emirati obligations and actions before, during, and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson said, according to Breaking Defense.

Other nations that can purchase the prestigious fighter jet include the UK, Australia, Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Denmark, and Norway. There are also agreements with Singapore, Poland, Belgium, Japan, and South Korea.

According to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the F-35 is “the most lethal, survivable, and connected fighter jet in the world.”

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.