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Trump administration advances $2.9 b drone sale to UAE - Sources

  • Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle

    Reuters

Washington   /   Fri, November 6, 2020   /   12:00 pm
Trump administration advances $2.9 b drone sale to UAE - Sources This undated US Air Force file photo released on June 20, 2019 shows a photo of a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. A US spy drone was some 34 kilometers (21 miles) from the nearest point in Iran when it was shot down over the Strait of Hormuz by an Iranian surface-to-air missile June 20, 2019, a US general said. (AFP/Handout/US Air Force)

The US State Department gave Congress informal notification it plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth as much as $2.9 billion, people briefed on the notification said.

The move comes on the heels of last week's notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the middle-eastern country.

This would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a Cold War-era arms agreement between 34 nations to allow US defense contractors to sell more drones to allies.

Reuters has reported that UAE has long shown interest in purchasing drones from the United States and would be among the first customers in line after US export policy changed this summer. A $600 million deal to sell four unarmed but weapons-ready SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan was the first to be formally notified to Congress on Tuesday. This informal notification for the Reaper-style drones is the precursor to the State Department's formal and public notification.

The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees - whose members have criticized UAE's role in civilian deaths in Yemen's civil war - have the ability to review and block weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.

The US State Department may wait to formally notify Congress of the sale once staff and members are briefed on the potential sale, one of the people said. The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales.