The State Department on Tuesday approved several Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) totaling $23 billion in F-35s, MQ-9B unmanned aircraft, and various munitions after a peace agreement was signed between Israel and the UAE in September.

The Trump administration informally notified Congress of the proposed sale of 50 F-35s by October, but earlier this month Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.,) chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill to restrict sales of sophisticated arms technologies in the Middle East beyond Israel (Defense Daily, Nov. 3).

F-35As on the runway before a combat exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah in November, 2018. The program helped bolster sales and earnings in Lockheed Martin’s second quarter. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

In an announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he directed the department to notify Congress of the sale, made “in recognition of our deepening relationship and the UAE’s need for advanced defense capabilities to deter and defend itself against heightened threats from Iran.”

Pompeo said that the UAE’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel, known as the Abraham Accords, “offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape.  Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.”

He continued that the FMS would make the UAE more capable and interoperable with U.S partners “in a manner fully consistent with America’s longstanding commitment to ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” known as QME.

Pompeo directly linked the deal with Israel to this sale, arguing “security cooperation and defense trade are powerful tools of American diplomacy.  Today’s announcement echoes the enhanced defense cooperation we embarked upon with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Camp David Accords, as well as our closer security relationship with Jordan following its normalization of ties with Israel in 1994.”

Moreover, a State Department official said the UAE’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel “offers significant opportunities to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape.  Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success.”

The official said the government is required by law to account for Israel’s QME for potential sales to the region and remains committed to helping Israel retain that edge.

“In an October 23 joint statement, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Gantz, endorsed the delivery of advanced defense capabilities to the UAE, noting U.S. commitments to upgrade Israel’s military capability, thereby maintaining its Qualitative Military Edge,” the official added.

These UAE sales are divided into three FMSs. The first is valued at $10.4 billion for 50 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters along with 54 Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines, and the associated systems, support, and services.

The primary contractors for this sale are aircraft builder Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Raytheon Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the F-35s will provide the UAE “with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces.”

The second FMS covers 18 weapons-ready MQ-9B unmanned aircraft systems at a cost of $2.89 billion.

A General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian in flight. (Photo courtesy of GA-ASI)

The sale includes the aircraft as well as 25 Raytheon Multi-Spectrum Targeting Systems-D EO/IR sensors, 19 Lynx AN/APY-8 Synthetic Aperture Radars with Ground Moving Target Indicator (GTMI); 515 AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles; AN/SSQ-36B thermometric sonobuoys; AN/SSQ-53G passive sonobuoys; AN-SSQ-62F active sonobuoys; and other sensors and associated systems and service support.

The primary contractors for this FMS include General Atomics; Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies, L3Harris Technologies [LHX], and Italy’s Leonardo.

DSCA said the UAE will use this sale to meet threats “by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, locate submarines and counter-land and counter-surface sea capabilities for its security and defense.”

The agency argued this capability is a deterrent to regional threats and will strengthen the UAE’s self-defense.

The final set of sales is $10 billion in various munitions to the UAE.

This includes 802 AIM-120C8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM); 2,004 MK-82 500LB General Purpose (GP) Bombs; 72 MK-82 Inert 500LB GP Bombs; 1,000 MK-84 2,000LB GP Bombs; 1,002 MK-83 1,000LB GP Bombs; 2,500 Small Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (SDB-1), GBU-39/B, with CNU-659/E Container; 2,000 KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Tail Kit for 500LB Bombs; 1,000 KMU-556 JDAM Tail Kit for 2,000LB Bombs; 1,000 KMU-559 JDAM Tail Kit for 1,000LB Bombs; 4,000 FMU-139 Fuze systems; 650 AGM-154C Joint Stand Off Weapons (JSOWs); 50 AGM-154E Joint Stand Off Weapons – Extended Range (JSOW-ER); and 150 AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) Tactical Missiles.

The primary contractors in the third FMS include Raytheon Technologies and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. DSCA noted that, if requested, F-16 integration would be completed via a Direct Commercial Sale between UAE and Lockheed Martin.

DSCA said this proposed sale will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future threats “by providing enhanced capabilities to various aircraft platforms in effective defense of air, land, and sea.”

It also noted this sale will support increased interoperability with the U.S. and align the UAE Air Force’s capabilities “with existing regional baselines.”

The State Department official also commented that the UAE “has long been a vital U.S. partner on a wide range of regional security issues.  Recognizing potential heightened threats from Iran to UAE in the wake of the Abraham Accords, the United States is seizing an opportunity to provide advanced capabilities to deter potential threats.”

The official compared these sales after the peace agreement to “enhanced defense cooperation” the U.S. began with Egypt after the 1979 Camp David Accords and a closer security relationship with Jordan after it normalized relations with Israel in 1994.