Military Aviation

UAE signs deal to purchase 50 F-35 stealth fighters an hour before President Biden took office

The UAE government also signed a separate agreement to buy up to 18 drones, the second-largest sale of US drones to a single country.

The United Arab Emirates has signed an agreement with the US to buy 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones, anonymous sources told Reuters on Jan. 20, 2021.

One of the sources said the agreement was signed about an hour before President Joseph Biden took office on Wednesday. However, the new president has said he will re-examine the agreements.

As we have already explained, in August Washington agreed to consider a possible sale of F-35s to the UAE after the so called the Abraham Accord, a US-brokered agreement aimed to normalize diplomatic ties with Israel.

The UAE had the chance to accept the negotiated schedule and configuration of the jets while also making the purchase request official thanks to the agreement.

The sources said that although the two countries hoped to have a deal in place in December, the timing of jet deliveries, their cost, the technology packages and training associated with the deal extended negotiations. However, the UAE has had the paperwork for more than a week.

The sources added that the UAE government also signed a separate agreement to buy up to 18 drones, the second-largest sale of US drones to a single country.

The final in-country delivery date for the F-35 jets could not immediately be confirmed, but the initial proposal sent to UAE said 2027, the anonymous sources said.

Noteworthy the sale has proven politically fraught in Congress. According to Defense News in fact, Democratic lawmakers expressed opposition to the potential sale, saying it ignores risks to sensitive military technology posed by the UAE’s ties to Russia and China. Some also raised concerns about the threat to Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East.

However, a December attempt in the Senate to block the arms sales failed, largely along party lines. The first vote concerned the drones and munitions, failing 46-50, while the second concerned the F-35s and fell 47-49.

Nevertheless, any F-35 sale takes years to negotiate and deliver, giving the new US presidential administration ample time to halt the deals. Any sale would also need congressional approval.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-35A Lightning II 56th OG, 61st FS, LF/12-5050 / 2014

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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