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WASHINGTON, 06 November, 2020, (TON): The U.S. State Department has issued a notification to Congress, it plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth as much as $2.9bn. The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales.
The move came soon after last week’s notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the oil-rich Gulf state and one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies. The sale would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a cold War-era arms agreement among thirty four nations to permit USA defence contractors to sell more drones to allies.
According to a news agency Reuters the UAE has long shown interest in shopping for drones from the USA and would be among the primary customers in line after USA export policy revised this summer.
A $600m deal to sell four unarmed but weapons-ready MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan was the first to be formally announced to Congress on Tuesday.
The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committee’s members have previously criticised the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen’s civil war. They can review and block weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
The armed MQ-9B drones will also be equipped with maritime radar and may possibly be sent in 2024. The package notified to Congress is for 15 with an option for three additional drones. The UAE is also seeking a package of Boeing Co EA-18G Growlers, an electronic warfare version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft that are capable of jamming radar and other advanced capabilities. Growlers are operated by the US and Australia.
The UAE has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal made when they agreed to normalise relations with Israel. The informal notification for 50 Lockheed Martin Co F-35 jets was made on October 29.
Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that guarantees US weapons furnished to Israel are "superior in capability" to those sold to its neighbours.
During the Trump administration US weapons sale have amplified conflicts and heightened tensions among many countries. Between 2002 and 2019 American allies purchased $135 billion of weapons and non‐allies purchased $75 billion of weapons.