Fear of too close ties with China slows U.S. warplane exports to UAE

The United Arab Emirates Ministry of Defense says its purchase of French Rafale fighter jets will be in addition to its plan to buy U.S. F-35 fighter jets. The UAE’s purchase of U.S. F-35 fighter jets has been slowed by U.S. concerns over its ties with China.

The UAE on Friday ordered 80 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation and 12 Caracal military helicopters from Airbus Helicopters in a contract worth 17 billion euros ($19.2 billion).

Rafale fighter jets will replace the UAE’s French-built Mirage 2000 fleet, said Major General Ibrahim Nasser Alavi, commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defense, in a statement on the official Emirates News Agency (WAM) on Saturday evening.

Allawi said, “This agreement should not be seen as an alternative to the upcoming F-35 agreement, but rather as a complementary agreement …… we are developing our air force capabilities.” Allawi said the UAE has been seeking to replace its Mirage fleet for some time.

The sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets to the UAE by U.S. firm Lockheed Martin has slowed due to concerns in Washington about Abu Dhabi’s ties with China, such as the UAE’s use of Huawei technology in its 5G network.

Last month, a U.S. official said the United States intends to move forward with the sale, but must be clear about “the UAE’s obligations.

The Trump administration agreed to sell the planes last year after the UAE established ties with Israel. The Biden administration has said this year that it will continue these arms sales.