The United Arab Emirates reached an agreement on the acquisition of 50 F-35A fighter jets as well as 18 MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones shortly before Joe Biden was inaugurated as President of the United States. The total sale is estimated at over $11 billion.
The deal was negotiated by Donald Trump’s administration following the normalization of the diplomatic relationship between the UAE and Israel.
It was approved by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in early November 2020. The sale of the stealth fighter should “improve the security of an important regional partner,” while the drones will help “meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR).”
Back then, the announcement caused protest from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So far, the Israel Air Force is the only one to operate the F-35A in the Middle East. Thus, Netanyahu feared the acquisition could disturb the power balance in the region if Israel was to lose its Qualitative Military Edge. Since 2008, any proposed U.S. arms sale in the Middle East must include a notification to Congress with a determination that the contract would not affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over its potential adversaries.
Two resolutions were presented by Congress representatives, which were narrowly dismissed.
When the sale was announced, the current nominee for the position of Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised the Biden administration would have to “take a hard look” at the F-35 sale.
According to a Reuters source, the F-35A deal was signed “about an hour before Mr. Biden took office.” The final contract, which will precise the delivery dates of the aircraft, has yet to be signed.