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UAE buys 50 F-35A jets and 18 MQ-9B Reaper armed drones


The United Arab Emirates has reportedly signed a deal for 50 Lockheed Martin F-35As and 18 General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9B Reaper unmanned air vehicles). It was approved by the U.S. State Department through the foreign military sale (FMS) programme. It was notified by Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in November 2020.

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UAE buys 50 F 35A jets and 18 MQ 9B Reaper armed drones

An F-35A Lightning II releases a B61-12 thermonuclear gravity bomb during dual capable aircraft (DCA) test flight in June 2019 (Picture source: U.S. Air Force)


Reuters news agency, citing undisclosed sources, said that Abu Dhabi signed off the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package deal in the last hour of the Trump administration. It adds that deliveries could start in 2027.

Moreover, the development was confirmed by House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Representative Eliot Engel. The U.S. Congress was also informally notified about the sale, Flight Global reports. The UAE has also agreed to purchase up to 18 MQ-9B Reaper combat drones. The sources said that the agreement signing took place around an hour prior to US President-elect Joseph Biden being inaugurated as the new president on 20 January, Flight Global adds.

Initially, a deal between the UAE and the USA was expected to happen in December 2020. However, issues related to delivery timelines, cost, technology, training and other support packages resulted in extending the discussions between the nations. However, Reuters reported that Joe Biden’s administration is set to re-examine the agreements.


UAE buys 50 F 35A jets and 18 MQ 9B Reaper armed drones 2

An MQ-9 Reaper sits on a ramp in Afghanistan. The Reaper is launched, recovered and maintained at deployed locations, while being remotely operated by pilots and sensor operators at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada (Courtesy photo)