The US State Department has notified Congress it plans to sell 18 battle-ready MQ-9B aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Reuters reported on Friday. The deal could be worth as much as $2.9 billion, according to sources.
The UAE will be one of the first customers for United States military drones, as it has long shown interest in purchasing this top-of-the-line American combat hardware.
The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have been vocal critics of UAE’s role in the Yemeni civil war, which has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, and could block sales of the “Reaper-style” drone to the Middle Eastern country.
After staff and members of Congress are briefed about the sale as an “informal notification” the State Department will issue a formal notification, after which Congress has 30 days to object to the deal.
The deal is for an initial sale of 15 armed, maritime radar-equipped MQ-9B drones slated for delivery in 2024 with an additional three possibly included later.
Other Weapons Sales in the Pipeline
The news follows a similar informal notification last week of the planned sale of F-35 fighter jets to the country.
Among Washington’s closest Middle East allies, UAE was promised the opportunity to buy the stealthy F-35 jets if it normalized relations with Israel. Informal notification of Congress for the sale of 50 of the Lockheed Martin aircraft took place on October 29.
The UAE has also expressed interest in the Boeing EA-18G Growler, a version of the two-seat F/A-18F Super Hornet operated by the US and Australia capable of advanced capabilities such as jamming radar.
However, according to a longstanding agreement with Israel, any sale of military hardware by the US to other countries in the region must allow Israel to maintain a “qualitative military edge” and be “superior in quality.”