UAE 'won't get F-35 jets for 6-7 years'

UAE won't get F-35 jets for 6-7 years, claims US ambassador
2 min read
24 September, 2020
David Friedman said it would take at least six years for the UAE to receive F-35 warplanes, warning Israelis not to make the contentious arms deal into a 'political issue'
An F-35 jet in an Israeli hangar near Eilat [Getty]
The US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman has claimed that the UAE will likely have to wait at least six years before it obtains F-35 fighter jets under a contentious arms deal that Israel claims threatens its military advantage in the region.

"The Emiratis have been trying to get the F-35 for six or seven years. The delivery time is probably another six or seven years from now, if they got [approval]," Friedman said in an interview at a conference held by The Jerusalem Post.

Despite denial from the US, the potential arms deal is widely seen as a reward from Washington to the Gulf kingdom for establishing ties with Israel.

As well as the F-35s, the most advanced fighter aircraft in the US arsenal, the arms package is reported to include weaponry such as Reaper drones and EA-18G Growler jets - electronic warfare planes that can conduct stealth attacks by jamming enemy air defences.

Senior figures in the Israeli military, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have spoken out against the sale of F-35s to the UAE, citing Washington's legal obligation to ensure Israel maintains a Quantitative Military Edge (QME) over other states in the region.

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Ambassador Friedman appeared to criticise Israeli officials opposed to the proposed sale of the stealth aircraft. 

"It's not in Israel's interest to discuss what they're afraid of or what they want or what they should get," said Friedman.

Friedman also accused opponents of making the arms deal into a "political issue", stating that the matter would be ironed out through negotiations between defence officials from both countries.

"Israel has dealt with the QME behind the scenes, professionally, outside of politics, successfully for more than a decade. It's going to continue to work that way," said the diplomat.

Despite denouncing the deal in public, Netanyahu gave US officials his approval in a secret meeting, according to a New York Times investigation.

The Trump administration has however been keen to push through the lucrative deal, and is hastily trying to find a way to both acquiesce Israel's demands and sign the arms deal with Abu Dhabi before the end of the year.

Reports have suggested this could mean supplying the UAE with F-35s with inferior radar detection systems.

Despite Emirati claims that the normalisation agreement with Israel included a stipulation that allowed it to purchase the F-35, a draft copy of the agreement released by Israeli media made no mention of the planes.

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