x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A US$270 million deal for the UAE government to buy military equipment as part of a wider deal to buy 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft from Lockheed Martin has passed a key hurdle.

UAE F-16s fly in formation over Al Ain. The nation is buying 30 more of the fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Sammy Dallal / The National
UAE F-16s fly in formation over Al Ain. The nation is buying 30 more of the fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Sammy Dallal / The National

The UAE Government is negotiating a multibillion-dollar purchase of weapons from Lockheed Martin, the US authorities have confirmed.

According to an official Pentagon statement published last week, a US$270 million deal for the UAE Government to buy military equipment as part of a wider deal to buy 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft from Lockheed Martin has passed a key hurdle.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon body which oversees foreign arms sales, announced that it had approved the sale which also includes guns, navigational systems, night vision devices and other equipment.

Congress now has 30 days should it wish to block the sale, although it rarely takes such action.

The UAE Government is still locked in negotiations with Lockheed regarding the sale of the F-16s which is understood to form part of a larger arms deal between the two nations.

The UAE Air Force currently operates 55 single-seat F-16E and 24 twin-seat F-16F aircraft, which it started receiving in 2004.

But following a visit by the US defence secretary Chuck Hagel in April last year, the US defence department announced that the Emirates was planning to buy additional F-16s.

“The proposed sale will improve the UAE’s capacity to meet current and future regional threats,” the DSCA said in its statement.

“The UAE continues host-nation support of vital US forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base; plays a vital role in supporting US regional interests; and has proven to be a valued partner and an active participant in overseas contingency operations,” it added.

Lockheed Martin has been operating in the Middle East for half a century and is bidding to extend its presence across the defence and non-defence spectrum.

Fighter jet exports to regions such as the Middle East have become increasingly important to defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, which are facing declining military spending from their biggest customers in the US and Europe.

Lockheed Martin also supplies F-16 aircraft to Iraq and Oman.

Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the timeline for the proposed deal or its ultimate value.

“We continue to work with the UAE to ensure their fleet is well maintained and up to date,” Lockheed spokesman Mark Johnson told The National.

“Any questions regarding the potential upgrade of Block 60 aircraft or the potential sale of new Block 61 aircraft should be directed to the US or UAE Government,” he added.

The UK’s BAE Systems said last week that the defence company would not be reviving talks with the UAE over the sale of the Eurofighter jet.

lbarnard@thenational.ae