U.S. Senate may restrict F-35 sales to the United Arab Emirates

Denmark's first F-35 takes to the air for its first flight

The Biden administration is seeing pushback from Senate Democrats after going ahead with a Trump-era deal to sell F-35 fighter aircraft to the United Arab Emirates.

Citing national security concerns, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., filed a bill Friday to restrict the sale of the most sophisticated F-35 Lightning II fighter jets to the UAE.

Last year, the pair authored similar legislation asking the UAE to normalize relations with Israel prior to any purchase.

In December, the Trump administration approved the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets worth $10.4 billion, 8 MQ-9B drones worth $2.97 billion and a package of munitions worth $10 billion.

The senators said the sale could affect U.S. national security and stability in the Middle East.

Menendez said UAE’s relationship with Yemen and Libya, as well as China and Russia, is debatable, and Israel should be the military superpower in the region.

He noted Israel’s comparative position in his opposition to the deal.

“I remain concerned with the implications of a sale of our most advanced fighter jet given numerous outstanding, unanswered questions about the implications of this sale for U.S. national security, our technology interests and implications for regional stability, including the legal parameters of Israel’s qualitative military edge,” Menendez said in a statement.

The F-35 has been emblematic of significant defense expenditures with questionable results. Over its 20-year development, the plan has cost over $1.8 trillion and produced only around 500 functioning aircraft.

Despite delays, including a recent announcement that jet engine shortages will likely continue indefinitely, Lockheed Martin said production of the aircraft is picking up.

In addition to pending the UAE deal, Lockheed Martin recently noted two significant sales. The Department of Defense provided the aeronautics company with $1.3 billion around the time the deal was announced.

Those dollars are to be used to provide training and support for the F-35 program.

A March report by the Government Accountability Office showed costs associated with the fighter jet are growing at $2 billion per year.

Shortly after that report’s release, Lockheed Martin was awarded $4.9 billion over three contracts to produce 140 fighter planes for the Air Force, Marines and Navy.

In January, Lockheed Martin was also granted a combined $145.4 million to upgrade the aircraft’s software suite and radio systems.

Denmark recently showed off its F-35s in a demonstration. Belgium also recently entered into a partnership with Lockheed Martin for F-35s.

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