WASHINGTON – A contract to sell F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the United Arab Emirates is expected to be signed before the end of the Trump administration, according to a senior State Department official.
“Everything is on its way” for a contract signed before Jan. 20, R. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs, told reporters on a call Friday.
Members of Congress previously expressed concerns that the deal will be speeded up so that it can be contracted before the takeover by the Biden administration. The election of President-elect Joe Biden as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told reporters in late October that the deal “is something we would look very, very carefully” into. However, once a contract is signed, it becomes more difficult to change the deal.
“As you can imagine, there is not a single contract, so they will be at different times … there will be different contract signatures, different productions, and different deliveries,” explained Cooper. “Why? You are talking about different key corporate elements or different members of the defense industry, and the terms and conditions associated with a particular platform or system.
“But yes, I mean, everything is on its way to completion. And as we have already discussed, the sales were of course put together well by the agency and also clarified our congress.”
The UAE deal includes an estimated price of $ 23.37 billion that includes up to 50 F-35A fighters worth $ 10.4 billion, 18 MQ-9B drones worth $ 2.97 billion $ 10 billion worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground aircraft includes ammunition. (These dollar amounts are estimates and may shift during the final negotiation.)
The sale has proven politically charged in Congress. Democratic lawmakers opposed the possible sale, ignoring the risks to sensitive military technology that flow from the UAE’s relations with Russia and China. Some also expressed concerns about the threat to Israel’s qualitative military lead in the Middle East.
An attempt by the Senate in December to block arms sales, however, largely failed politically. The first vote concerned the drones and ammunition, which failed between 46 and 50, while the second concerned the F-35, which fell between 47 and 49.