Trump administration notifies Congress F-35 sale plan to UAE

The Donald Trump administration informally notified Congress of its plan to sell advanced fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to the chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel on Thursday said in a statement that Congress must analyze all of the ramifications of the export of F-35. “Rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest.”

The Democratic congressman noted that the potential F-35 sale to the UAE would change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge. He also expressed concerns about the possible leaks of F-35’s sensitive technology, and the sale might generate demands from other Arab states for advanced weapons in exchange for normalization with Israel, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In the coming days, I invite members of Congress who share my concerns to join me in introducing legislation to ensure that the sale of these types of weapons adhere to our most important national security goals,” Engel said.

The proposed sale needs to be approved by Congress.

According to media reports, the deal would include up to 50 of the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 jets at the cost of US $10.4 billion. If the sale is completed, the UAE will become only the second country in the region to fly these stealth fighter jets after Israel.

Reports said that the F-35 deal was a part of the US-brokered agreement to normalize ties between the UAE and Israel, which was signed last month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially opposed the UAE’s purchase of the F-35, but Israel’s position changed after the United States pledged to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region.

A joint statement by Netanyahu and his Minister of Defence Benny Gantz last Friday said that Israel would not oppose the sale of “certain weapon systems” to the UAE in light of a promise by the United States to upgrade Israel’s military edge in the Middle East.

The “certain weapon systems” is an apparent reference to the advanced F-35 stealth fighter jets, reported Israeli media.

The joint statement was published upon Gantz’s return from Washington, where he met with Pentagon chief Mark Esper and signed a deal “to secure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”