The United States and United Arab Emirates hope to reach an initial agreement on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Abu Dhabi by early December, the Reuters news agency reported Tuesday.
U.S. officials have said they are committed to Israel’s security and are looking for a way to structure a deal that would allow Israel to keep its military edge.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is currently in Washington to discuss the emerging F-35 sale.
According to the report, the two sides aim to draft up a letter of agreement in time for UAE National Day celebrated on Dec. 2.
Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
With that in mind Washington is studying ways to make the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, two sources said. Reuters could not determine if this would be done by changing the jet or providing Israel with better radar, among other possibilities.
Israel has around two dozen F-35s. The deal, if it goes through, would mark the first time an Arab state would be in possession of the advanced stealth jet.
The report, citing both a congressional staffer and a source familiar with past sales, said the Pentagon does not allow any F-35 sold to foreign governments to match the performance of U.S. jets.
The UAE is among the world’s biggest defense spenders.
After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the U.S. pledged to preserve Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region that has prevented the UAE sale happening until now.
During a visit to Jerusalem last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reassured Israel that his country would continue to preserve that edge while allowing the UAE to defend itself against threats from Iran.