The US has officially announced the sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter along with MQ-9B drones and other weapons to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and the UAE.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced the US Department of Defense’s approval for the sale of up to 50 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, 18 MQ-9B and other munitions including AGM-154E Joint Stand-Off Weapon-Extended Range cruise missiles, all worth $23.4 billion.
“This is 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,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a statement.
Following the Abraham Accords signed between Israel and UAE to normalize their relations for the first time, it offered “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region’s strategic landscape,” said Pompeo.
“Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success. The proposed sale will make the UAE even 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,” the statement added.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter package that costs $10.4 billion includes:
Up to fifty (50) F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft and fifty-four (54) Pratt & Whitney F-135 Engines (up to 50 installed and 4 spares). Also included are Electronic Warfare Systems; Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Intelligence/Communications, Navigational, and Identification (C4I/CNI); Autonomic Logistics Global Support System (ALGS); Operational Data Integrated Network (ODIN); Air System Training Devices; Weapons Employment Capability and other Subsystems, Features, and Capabilities; F-35 unique chaff and infrared flares; reprogramming center access; F-35 Performance-Based Logistics; software development/integration; aircraft ferry and tanker support; aircraft and munitions support and test equipment; communications equipment; provisioning, spares and repair parts; weapons repair and return support; personnel training and training equipment; weapon systems software, publications and technical documents; US Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support.
The MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft costs $2.97 billion and includes:
Up to eighteen (18) Weapons-Ready MQ-9B, Remotely Piloted Aircraft; twenty-five (25) Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems-D (MTS-D) EO/IR Sensors; nineteen (19) Lynx AN/APY-8 Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR) with Ground Moving Target Indicator (GTMI); eighteen (18) RIOTM Communication Intelligence Systems; sixty-six (66) Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigations Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Modules (SAASMs); five hundred fifteen (515) AGM-114R Hellfire Missiles; twelve (12) KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) Tail Kits for 500LB Bombs; four (4) MXU-650 Airfoil Groups for 500LB Paveway II GBU-12; seven (7) MXU-1006 Airfoil Groups for 250LB Paveway II GBU-58; eleven (11) MAU-169 or MAU-209 Computer Control Groups (CCGs) for 250LB/500LB Paveway II GBU-58/GBU-12; six (6) FMU-139 Fuse Systems; twelve (12) MK-82 General Purpose 500LB Inert Bombs; and four (4) GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Guided Test Vehicle (GTV) Inert Practice Munitions (T-1) with Fuse. Also included are Honeywell TPE-331 turboprop engines; Certifiable Ground Control Stations (CGCS); mobile Satellite Communication Ground Data Terminals (SGDTs); Link-16 KOR-24A Small Tactical Terminals; Automatic Information System (AIS); Rohde & Schwartz UHF/VHF radios; AN/DPX-7 IFF Transponders; Satellite Communication (SATCOM) antennas and modems with USG encryption; Secure SATCOM systems; SeaSpray 7500 maritime radars; SAGE 750 Electronic Surveillance Measures System; KY-100M security voice terminals; KIV-77 Mode 5 IFF cryptographic appliques; U.S. Government Certified Encryption Solution; Rover 6i compatible systems; MQ-9B training simulator; Due Regard Radars (DRR); Electronic Warfare (EW) in-country threat library programming capability; BRU-71A bomb racks; BRU-78/A bomb racks; Hellfire missile rail kits; AN/AWM-103/B Station Stores Test Sets; Common Munitions Built-in-Test Reprogramming Equipment (CMBRE) Plus Block II; Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) mission kits, receivers, and acoustic processors; AN/SSQ-36B thermometric sonobuoys; AN/SSQ-53G passive sonobuoys; AN-SSQ-62F active sonobuoys; ASW acoustic operator workstations; weapons loading equipment; initial spare and repair parts; hard points, power, and data connections for weapons integration; DSU-38 Laser Illuminated Target Detector for GBU-54; AN/PYQ-10C Simple Key Loaders; Electronic Intelligence System; weapons integration; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; US Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support.
According to the DSCA, the sale of these drones and other munitions will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future 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 third contract is for the sale of Munitions, Sustainment and Support, and related equipment for an estimated cost of $10.0 billion. It includes:
Eight hundred two (802) AIM-120C8 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM); sixteen (16) AIM-120C8 AMRAAM guidance sections spares; two thousand four (2,004) MK-82 500LB General Purpose (GP) Bombs; seventy-two (72) MK-82 Inert 500LB GP Bombs; one thousand (1,000) MK-84 2,000LB GP Bombs; one thousand two (1,002) MK-83 1,000LB GP Bombs; two thousand five hundred (2,500) Small Diameter Bomb Increment 1 (SDB-1), GBU-39/B, with CNU-659/E Container; eight (8) GBU-39 SDB-1 Guided Test Vehicles; two thousand (2,000) KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) Tail Kit for 500LB Bombs; one thousand (1,000) KMU-556 JDAM Tail Kit for 2,000LB Bombs; one thousand (1,000) KMU-559 JDAM Tail Kit for 1,000LB Bombs; four thousand (4,000) FMU-139 Fuze systems; six hundred fifty (650) AGM-154C Joint Stand Off Weapons (JSOWs); fifty (50) AGM-154E Joint Stand Off Weapons – Extended Range (JSOW-ER); one hundred fifty (150) AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM) Tactical Missiles; six (6) CATM-88 AARGM CATMs. Also included are six (6) JSOW-C AGM-154C Captive Air Training Missiles (CATMs); six (6) JSOW-ER AGM-154E CATMs; ARD 446-1B and ARD 863-1A1W Impulse Cartridges; JSOW-C Dummy Air Training Missiles (DATM); JSOW-C Captive Flight Vehicles (CFVs); JSOW-ER DATMs; JSOW-ER CFVs; PGU-23/U training ammunition, encryption devices and keying equipment for test missiles (not for export); Laser Illuminated Target Detector, DSU-38A/B; software delivery and support; AIM-120C Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM) and Airborne Instrumented Units (AIU) Telemetry Sections; missile containers; munitions components; aircraft test and integration support; containers; mission planning; munitions security, storage and training; facility design, construction and quality standards; weapon operational flight program software development; transportation; tools and test equipment; support equipment; spare and repair parts; weapons and aircraft integration support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment, devices and software; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; site surveys; and other related elements of logistics and program support.
All the proposed deals still need approval from Congress to fully materialize. The sale has been contentious because of the long-standing agreement with Israel to maintain the Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Earlier, Washington has steered clear of making an arms sale in the Middle East region in order to maintain Israel’s QME.
However, the Trump administration is pushing to get the deal approved before Donald Trump’s Presidency ends on January 20 next year, as it is unclear whether the new President-elect, Joe Biden, will approve the sale or not.
Earlier, Tony Blinken, Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, said in an interview with The Times Of Israel that that Trump’s commitment to sell the F-35s to UAE could be a “quid pro quo” of the peace deal signed between Israel and UAE.
He added that in order to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge as current US law requires, the Biden administration would have to “take a hard look” at the F-35 sale, that still needs approval from the Congress. “Whether it was actually a quid pro quo or not, it sure looks like one.”
Meanwhile, the official announcement cleared up the specifications related to the weapons sale, one of which is the configuration of the MQ-9B drone. With the integration of Hellfire missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided bombs, the drones will be partially similar to the one that the US Air Force’s MQ-9A Reaper.
“The package also very notable includes maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare systems, including maritime surface search radars and sonobuoy launchers. It’s not clear how many of the MQ-9Bs would be in this configuration, but it would offer new and important over-water capabilities to the UAE,” noted The Drive.
It further noted that since the proposed F-35 deal includes no weapons, it appears that these are at least partially intended for those jets and would provide the UAE with a full range of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance for those aircraft.
The package also includes a whopping 802 AIM-120C8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM). Developed by Raytheon, it is the latest development of the AMRAAM missile featuring a two-way data link to target a third party, like Meteor missile.
Coupled with the F-35 fighters and UAE’s F-16E/F Desert Falcon fleet, that it already possesses, will together form a lethal combination to challenge any adversary in the region.