The Biden administration intends to move ahead with a proposed $23 billion arms sale with the United Arab Emirates, previously approved by Trump’s White House, following a review by the State Department.

The deal which includes, $10 billion for 50 F-35A strike fighters, $2.9 billion for 18 MQ-9B Reaper drones and $10 billion for a range of munitions, still faces a pending legal challenge from the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) that aims to block the agreement.

F-35As sit on the flight line at Hill AFB, Utah on Jan. 6, 2020. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“While we will not comment on ongoing litigation, we can confirm that that the Administration intends to move forward with these proposed defense sales to the UAE, even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials to ensure we have developed mutual understandings with respect to Emirati obligations before, during, and after delivery,” a State Department spokesperson told Defense Daily, confirming news first reported by HuffPost

The lawsuit, filed by the NYCFPA in December, argues the Trump administration did not provide adequate reasoning to justify the sale of billions of dollars in weapons to the UAE.

“We had hoped that the Biden team would take into account the impact that these weapons could have in the wrong hands. We had hoped that the Biden administration would have been up front with the global community regarding their reasoning. We had hoped that the Biden administration would have put the mitigation of the humanitarian crises in Libya and Yemen above starting what could be an arms race in this sensitive region of the world. We had hoped for better things out of the Biden administration…and now those hopes have been dashed,” Justin Thomas, principal director of the NYCFPA, said in a statement.

Thomas noted the NYCFPA filed an amended complaint on Wednesday morning with the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to include several new co-plaintiffs. 

The arms deal has also faced bipartisan pushback, including unsuccessful resolutions proposed by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), which looked to stop the sale over concerns the UAE could use the equipment in the ongoing conflict in Yemen and potentially transfer sensitive information on the military hardware to Russia or China (Defense Daily, Dec. 10). 

In late January, the State Department confirmed it received direction from the White House to pause and review several ongoing weapons sales that were approved during the Trump presidency “to allow incoming leadership an opportunity to review” (Defense Daily, Jan. 27). 

The State Department spokesperson noted the weapons deliveries to the UAE, if the plan is implemented, would still be “several years in the future.”

“Thus, we anticipate a robust and sustained dialogue with the UAE [on] any defense transfers [to] meet our mutual strategic objectives to build a stronger, interoperable, and more capable security partnership. We will also continue to reinforce with the UAE and all recipients of U.S. defense articles and services that U.S.-origin defense equipment must be adequately secured and used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict,” the spokesperson said.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the F-35 contractor and General Atomics manufactures the Reaper.