The Biden administration intends to move forward with plans to sell up to 50 Lockheed-Martin F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE, but expects talks to continue. with Abu Dhabi on its “obligations” concerning the securing of aircraft technology.
Mira Resnick, the State Department’s top official for regional security affairs, told reporters today that she had met with Emirati officials on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow to discuss the matter.
Resnick told Breaking Defense last week that the Biden administration continued to seek clarification from UAE officials on securing the fifth-generation hunter.
She offered no update on those assurances on Tuesday, but said high-level talks will continue. “Those who projected [transfer] the dates are far into the future so if they are implemented we have real time to consult, ”she said. “We’ve had a pretty solid and sustained dialogue with Emirati officials, and I can sort of leave it at that.”
Why is this important: The Biden administration has approved a proposal left by the Trump administration to bring the UAE into the fold of nations allowed to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
But the $ 23 billion sale, which also includes the MQ-9B Reaper drones, has stalled, apparently amid concerns in Washington about Abu Dhabi’s ability to prevent sensitive weapon technology from falling between de bad hands.
U.S. officials have not publicly exposed these concerns, but news reports have cited the UAE’s ties to China and the deal with Huawei to provide 5G networks as being at the heart of the problem.
“I anticipate an ongoing, robust and sustained dialogue with the United Arab Emirates to ensure that all defense transfers meet our mutual strategic national security objectives…. while protecting American technology, ”Resnick told reporters today.
Meanwhile, Russia is rushing to develop its response to the F-35, the Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate. State-owned Rostec aims to bring the fighter, billed as a stealth light tactical aircraft, to markets in the Middle East by 2026.
A senior Rostec executive confirmed at the airshow yesterday that the company is once again in talks with Emirati companies over joint production of the Su-75.
“Russia does not establish any political label or condition of cooperation with countries,” said Rostec’s head of international cooperation Viktor Kladov.
The Su-75 made its international debut at the Dubai Airshow this weekend. Russian officials met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
Still, Resnick expressed confidence that Washington, with its network of allies, is offering a better package.
“I was on the flight line today. There were queues around the corner to see the F-35, ”she said on Tuesday’s call with reporters. “This is a real game-changing opportunity for the UAE and for our partnership, and we look forward to implementing this sale. “
Asked by Al-Monitor whether the Biden administration is taking the schedule for the sale of its Rostec planes seriously, Resnick declined to comment directly.
“Our partners know the risks of CAATSA sanctions and that we are very serious about implementing CAATSA, whether in this region or around the world,” Resnick said.
Know more: Read Hussein Nagah’s rundown on the main highlights from this year’s air show, including a major focus on emerging drone technology.