Mike Pompeo confirms US sale of F-35 jets to UAE, after its recognition of Israel

A 2017 photo shows an F-35 fighter jet taking off for a training mission in Utah. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Tuesday (Nov 10) that the United States planned to sell top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates as part of a US$23.37 billion (S$31 billion) package.

The State Department sent a formal notice to Congress on the sale of the stealth precision planes, long sought by the Gulf Arab ally which won a green light after agreeing in September to recognise Israel.

"The UAE's historic agreement to normalize relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to positively transform the region's strategic landscape," Pompeo said in a statement.

"Our adversaries, especially those in Iran, know this and will stop at nothing to disrupt this shared success," he said.

Democratic lawmakers on Oct 29 had reported that the State Department had informally discussed the sale with Congress, which has the power to block arms sales.

The Democrats voiced mixed feelings, fearing that the sale would set off an arms race in the region and jeopardise Israel's undisputed military edge in the region.

But Israel dropped objections to the sale as it sought even more high-tech equipment from the United States.

Pompeo confirmed that the sale would include up to 50 F-35s - equivalent to the size of Israel's fleet of the Lockheed Martin aircraft, which can be used to gather intelligence, conduct airstrikes and carry out air-to-air combat.

Pompeo said the sale would also include up to 18 MQ-9B advanced drones as well as US$10 billion worth of air and ground munitions.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.