F-35s to UAE: doubts about the deal grow

Summary: a bipartisan move by members of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to quash the sale of sophisticated military hardware to the UAE is gathering pace in the dying days of the Trump presidency.

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2 thoughts on “F-35s to UAE: doubts about the deal grow”

  1. The UAE Armed Forces like to have the latest and best of the equipment on offer, and do not like being told that some new weapon or software system is secret or NATO classified. If they want something, they set about getting it, through a range of techniques, like starting negotiations to buy from another source, stopping deliveries of their latest purchase, talking sternly to the unsuspecting Ministers of allies, and threatening to cancel joint training exercises in the desert or on the islands. In my experience, they usually get their way, possibly after some delay, while the classification of the item in question is for example downgraded, thereby making it available for purchase.
    The UAE not only has become a major manufacturer of a wide range of high-quality military equipment, in fact just about everything except battle tanks and fast jets so far, but they are talking to many other manufacturers like the Israelis, Russians and Chinese. They are not only able to compare what the main suppliers have on offer, but they are ensuring that no supplier lets them down, for example for political reasons, and leaves them short of equipment. They hire retired engineers from European countries, Brazil and Russia to assist them in re-engineering the hardware and actively shop around for weapon systems and ideas. I recall gently advising a group of Royal Air Force fast jet pilots who flew in the Tornado, at the time a highly classified system, to demonstrate it to the UAE Air Force in the mid-1980s, not to patronise their opposite numbers. The Emirati pilots who greeted them on arrival had already flown almost every fast jet available, including the latest Russian Sukhois. It will be interesting to see if they get to fly the F-35. Knowing the Emiratis, they probably have already.

  2. Shifting weapons supplier is far harder than most politicians imagine. Most modern weapons systems should be described more accurately as systems of systems. Not only are there physical issues (as simple as dimensions) and software issues (a US aircraft is unlikely to be able to fire a Russian missile), but also air and ground crew training / rating issues, and even language issues.
    The exception is (to an extent) among NATO suppliers. NATO is as much a standardisation organisation as it is a combat force: nominally at least, a US rifle should be able to fire French ammunition of the same calibre to the same performance.

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