Skip to main content

US to move forward with $23B arms sale to UAE

The $23.4 billion arms package includes F-35s, armed drones and other equipment.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The US administration has notified Congress that it is moving ahead with a multibillion-dollar arms package to the United Arab Emirates that was put on hold in January, the State Department confirmed.

A spokesperson for the State Department told Reuters the US government would proceed with the sale “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials.” 

The administration announced in January that it was reviewing pending arms sales worth billions of dollars, including deals with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, that were pushed through by the Donald Trump administration in its final months.

According to the Emirati Embassy, the $23.4 billion sale, which was finalized with the Trump administration a day before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, includes 50 F-35 fighter jets, 18 armament-ready MQ-9B drones and a package of precision munitions. The transfer would make the UAE the first Arab country to obtain Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the world's most advanced fighter aircraft. 

The fifth-generation fighter jets were part of a reported side deal in the Trump-brokered Abraham Accords, which established diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel in September in exchange for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to hold off on a planned annexation of large portions of the West Bank.

The UAE has described the sale as one that would enhance its ability to counter evolving regional threats. But critics said the advanced weaponry could further fuel civilian harm in the region, pointing to the Gulf country’s role in Yemen and its reported violation of a UN arms embargo in Libya. 

The administration’s decision “contradicts its pledge to make human rights and US security interests the central concerns in deciding which nations to supply with US weaponry,” said William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy. 

“The UAE is not a reliable partner, and selling it advanced combat aircraft, drones and bombs will do far more harm than good,” Hartung told Al-Monitor. 

Other critics of the planned sale feared providing the UAE with the F-35s could undermine Israel’s "qualitative military edge" in the region. But the Israeli government, which last year normalized relations with the Gulf country, said it did not oppose the deal. 

The State Department said it would “continue to reinforce” with the UAE and other recipients of US defense sales that such weaponry must be “used in a manner that respects human rights and fully complies with the laws of armed conflict."

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Free

The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.

Free

What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing
Expert

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to pro.support@al-monitor.com and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial