According to a Reuters report, the Trump administration informally notified Congress of its intention to sell armed drones to the UAE. Sources said the sale would be for 18 sophisticated armed aerial drones worth an estimated $2.9 billion.
The news comes a week after the White House informally notified Congress of the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, a sale that was agreed to as part of Abu Dhabi’s normalization with Israel. The F-35 deal raised concern in Congress over Israel’s military superiority in the region, known as the Qualitative Military Edge (QME).
But after meeting with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper over the QME, Israeli officials essentially gave the Trump administration the green light to make the F-35 sale. After news broke about the F-35 sale being advanced, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he received strong assurances on “the American commitment to preserve Israel’s military qualitative edge.”
In earlier comments, Netanyahu said Israel would not oppose the sale of “certain weapon systems” to the UAE after discussing the issue with US officials. The Trump administration likely discussed the potential sale of drones to the UAE with Israel before advancing it.
The potential sale also comes after the Trump administration loosened export control for armed drones. In July, the administration announced it was reinterpreting the Missile Technology Control Regime, an international arms control agreement that sets limitations on the export of missiles and unmanned delivery systems.
On Tuesday, the State Department said it approved a sale of four unarmed MQ-9 SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan, worth approximately $600 million. The SeaGuardians are being sold unarmed but are “weapons ready.”