MON reported the reputed interest the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has in acquiring the F-35 LIGHTNING II on 23 August. On 10 November, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of State Department approval for up to 50 F-35s and associated equipment, logistics support and services, for an estimated programme cost of $10.4 billion (€8.7 billion).

Simultaneously, DSCA notified approval of additional requests from the government of the UAE, totalling an additional $12.97 billion, for a variety of systems and equipment (all with appropriate scales of ancillary equipment and support services), including: up to 18 weapons-ready MQ-9B UAS, 802 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, over 4,000 Mk82/83/84 500/1,000/2,000lb bombs, 4,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits, 2,500 Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) Incr 1, 650 Joint Stand-Off Weapons (JSOW) and 50 JSOW-Extended Range, 150 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM) and 515 HELLFIRE air-to-surface weapons.

On top of the other significant arms imports and defence investments the UAE has been making in recent years – coupled with the angst and concern being expressed by some Israeli factions, despite the unprecedented rapprochement between Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv in the last six months – it is difficult to see a $23 billion arms sale as a stabilising influence, no matter how important the right to mounting a credible defence may be.

Might F-35s flying in the Gulf skies shortly be sporting UAE roundels? (Photo: US DoD)

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