According to sources briefed on the matter at hand, the U.S. State Department has notified the U.S. Congress on its plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed MQ-9B aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth $2.9 billion.
The development comes in the wake of last week’s notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
The potential marks the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a Cold War-era arms agreement between 34 nations to allow U.S. defense contractors to sell more drones to allies.
Since long the UAE has shown interest in purchasing drones from the United States
According to a source, the State Department may wait to formally notify Congress of the sale once staff and members are briefed on the potential sale. The formal notification will give the Congress 30 days to object to any sale.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department said, “As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress.”
The armed MQ-9B drones will also be equipped with maritime radar and could be delivered in 2024. The package notified to Congress is for 15 with an option for three additional drones, said a source.
The UAE is also seeking to purchase Boeing’s EA-18G Growlers, which are equipped with electronic warfare features as well as the two-seater F/A-18F Super Hornet aircraft that are capable of radar jamming.
Abu Dhabi, one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy F-35 jets and was promised a chance to purchase them when they agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
Incidentally, any deal Washington makes in the region must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel wherein those weapon must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” thus guaranteeing that U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.