The new administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has temporarily suspended the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates, Bloomberg’s defense reporter Anthony Capaccio said in a tweet late Wednesday.
According to the journalist, the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia is also under review.
The UAE, one of Washington’s closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the stealthy jets and was promised by the former Donald Trump administration a chance to buy them in a side deal made when they agreed to normalize relations with Israel. After the normalization, Israel has also opened its embassy in the Arab country.
Sources familiar with the negotiations said a working idea was for Israeli air defenses to be able to detect the UAE F-35s with technology that effectively defeats the stealth capabilities of the jets.
F-35 fighter jets sold to the UAE could also be built in a way that ensures the same planes owned by Israel outperform any others sold in the region, defense experts say.
Washington already demands that any F-35 sold to foreign governments not be able to match the performance of U.S. jets, said both a congressional staffer and a source familiar with past sales.
The F-35’s technical sophistication is tied to its mission systems and processing power, and “it’s the computing power that allows you to sell a higher-tech jet to Israel than to the UAE,” said Doug Birkey, executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in Washington.