The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has warned that if the US refuses to supply it with F-35 and MQ-9 Reaper drones, the country will turn to “other sources”. The announcement came following US Congress members’ opposition to President Donald Trump’s decision to supply the military hardware to the UAE.
“We would rather have the best US-equipment or we will reluctantly find it from other sources, even if less capable,” Yousef al-Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the United States said in a statement. “It is about advancing a more stable and secure the Middle East. It enables the UAE to take on more of the regional burden for collective security, freeing US assets for other global challenges –- a bipartisan US priority,” he added.
The statement came after Democratic Senator Chris Murphy made an announcement that he had introduced a privileged resolution (meaning it must receive a floor vote), along with Senator Bob Menendez and Senator Rand Paul, to stop the $23-billion deal of F-35s, Reaper drones, and munitions with the UAE.
The announcement was made through a Twitter thread where Murphy acknowledged that he has supported security deals with UAE in the past but “this sale is different.”
“In Yemen, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have killed thousands of civilians with US-made weapons. In Libya, the UAE is in violation of the international arms embargo. And there’s evidence the UAE has illegally transferred U.S. military equipment to extremist militias in Yemen,” Murphy stated.
6/ It begs the question why the U.S. would reward this behavior with a record setting arms sale agreement. At the very least, we should receive clear, unbreakable assurances that the UAE's conduct in Libya and Yemen will change. That hasn't happened.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 2, 2020
Al-Otaiba said that UAE forces in Yemen were working on “hostile Houthi forces, terrorist cells and FON (freedom of navigation) operations,” and that they have “greatly limited civilian casualties.” He also said that UAE transferred “a limited number of US-manufactured protected mobility vehicles” and that they were given to “local anti-Houthi forces working in the Coalition.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which Murphy is a part of, was briefed by Trump officials about the arms deal. However, Murphy expressed that the officials couldn’t “detail how our most sensitive technology – on the Reapers and our F-35 jets – will not find its way to Russia/China.”
Earlier, Turkey was ousted from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program after Ankara went ahead with the procurement of the Russian S-400 missile system. The US said that it was expelling Turkey from its F-35 fighter jets program because Ankara received the first parts of a Russian air defense system. The US argued the “F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities”.
However, Al-Otaiba rejected the claim that the UAE has close ties with Russia and China calling it a “gross overstatement.” He also pointed out that UAE already hosts the US F-35 squadrons at the Al Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi. “The UAE has economic and diplomatic relationships with both and has only made purchases from each when the US could not supply critical equipment,” Al-Otaiba wrote.
This is a clear sign that if Washington refuses to supply UAE with the American F-35 fighters, it may have to look towards Russia for acquiring a fleet of fifth-generation fighter jets, and the latest Russian fighter to compete with F-35 is its Sukhoi Su-57.
The Su-57 fighter jet is designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defenses. It took its first flight in 2010. Combining the capabilities of an attack plane and a fighter jet, the use of composite materials and innovative technologies and the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration ensure low-level radar and infrared signature.
It can destroy all types of air, ground, and naval targets. It features stealth with the most advanced onboard radio-electronic equipment, including a powerful onboard computer (the so-called electronic second pilot), the radar system spread across its body and some other innovations, in particular, armament placed inside its fuselage.
With Democrats and even Republican senators displaying “uneasiness” at the prospect of supplying the UAE with F-35 and MQ-9 Reaper drones, the fate of the UAE lies in Washington’s hands.