US officials revealed that the US State Department has provided Congress with informal notification that it plans to sell 18 advanced armed MQ-9B drones to the UAE in a deal valued at $ 2.9 billion.
The move comes on the heels of a notification last week of a possible sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE.
The export of these drones will be the first of its kind, since President Donald Trump’s administration reinstated a Cold War arms agreement between 34 countries to allow US defense companies to sell more of their products to allies. Reuters reported that the UAE has long shown an interest in buying drones from the United States, and will be among the first customers after changing the US export policy this summer.
A deal worth $ 600 million to sell four unarmed MQ-9BC Guardian drones to Taiwan was the first to be formally notified to Congress on Tuesday.
This unofficial notification to drones is an introduction to the official and public notification from the State Department. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, whose members have criticized the UAE’s role in killing civilians in the Yemeni civil war, have the ability to review and prevent arms sales as part of an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislature.
One person said the State Department may wait to formally notify Congress of the sale once staff and members are informed of the potential sale. Official notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales. “As a general policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until Congress is formally notified of it,” a State Department spokesman told Reuters.
The MQ-9B aircraft will also be equipped with naval radar and can be delivered in 2024. One person said the package notified to Congress is 15 with an option to add three more drones.
It is noteworthy that the UAE is interested in acquiring “F-35” (stealth) aircraft, and obtained a promise of an opportunity to purchase them in a side deal concluded with the signing of the relationship agreement with Israel. An unofficial notification of 50 of them was sold on October 29. But any deal made by the United States to sell weapons in the region must fulfill decades of agreement with Israel whereby American-made weapons must not weaken Israel’s “qualitative military edge”, ensuring that the American weapons provided to Israel are “superior in capacity” to those sold to its neighbors.