According to Reuters, the United Arab Emirates on January 20 signed off on a deal to purchase up to 50 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and 18 MQ-9 Reaper drones from the United States. 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. The agreement delineates the cost of the aircraft, technical specifications and the schedule for F-35 deliveries to the UAE.
The agreement was one of the final acts of the Trump administration, occurring just an hour before President Joe Biden was inaugurated. The agreement delineates the cost of the aircraft, technical specifications and the schedule for F-35 deliveries to the UAE, people familiar with the deal told Reuters. The sale was expected ever since the signing of peace agreements between Israel and the UAE. The departments of State and Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Israeli opposition would be fatal to the deal in Congress, where Israel enjoys strong support.
Biden has said his administration would build on the accords. But he has also said that his administration will “reassess” Washington’s relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia and that he would support ending US arms sales to the two Gulf states over their involvement in Yemen’s civil war. The Senate failed to block the F-35 sale proposal in December. The Trump administration pushed Arab leaders to establish public ties with Israel in hope of laying groundwork for future regional security cooperation that can counter Iran’s support of proxy forces and ballistic missile capabilities.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. Lockheed Martin is the prime F-35 contractor, with principal partners Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems. The MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force.