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Senate raises concern about potential $24B sale of F-35s, Reapers to UAE

Nov. 13 (UPI) — Members of Congress indicated concern over the planned sale of military equipment totaling $ 23.4 billion to the United Arab Emirates.

This week the State Department approved three weapons deals, of $ 10.4 billion for 50 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take-Off and Landing aircraft, $ 10 billion for 800 AIM-120C8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles and $ 2.97 billion for 18 Weapons-Ready MQ-9B “Reaper” Remotely Piloted Aircraft.

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The Senate Appropriations Committee plans to demand that the State Department certify the deal “does not diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge and poses no vulnerabilities to U.S. military systems and technology.” The language has been included in a 2021 funding bill for the State Department.

While the Defense Security Cooperative Agency announced State Department approval of the sales this week, they must still gain the approval of the U.S. Senate.

The sale could compromise Israel’s qualitative military advantage, an U.S. understanding that Israel will be provided the opportunity to purchase the best available military equipment to maintain defense superiority in the Middle East, according to members of the U.S. Senate and other experts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the F-35 sale, as Israel recently worked to normalize relations with the UAE. Israel, which was the first foreign country to obtain F-35s, can also buy more planes, missiles and munitions.

Failing to previously purchase Reaper drones, the UAE purchased Chinese-made Wing Loong I/II drones in a move that suggested, to Washington, China’s involvement in the Middle East.

Bipartisan legislation, introduced on Nov. 10 in the Senate Appropriations Committee, also calls for provisions to keep U.S. military systems from becoming vulnerable to Russia and China.

While the UAE insists it is a reliable U.S. ally, critics of the sale have noted that the UAE’s U.S.-made weaponry has been used in bombing campaigns in Yemen, and is appearing in Libya’s civil war.

A ban on provision of UAE weapons in Libya, demanded by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, has not been enforced, several senators said.

The demands “have not been followed by actions, and foreign actors, including Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, continue to flagrantly violate the arms embargo with impunity,” a Nov. 10 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, from Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

The three contracts with the UAE are likely the last major arms deal of the Trump administration.

If they go through, the sales would constitute the first American transfer of Reaper unmanned aerial systems, and the first sale of the F-35, regarded as the most advance fighter plane in the world, to a Middle Eastern ally.

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Business News – UPI.com

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