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UAE To Purchase American Armed Drones in $2.9B Deal

The U.S. State Department has informally notified Congress that it plans to sell airborne armed drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal estimated to be worth $2.9 billion. According to a Reuters report, the UAE will purchase 18 sophisticated MQ-9B Reaper-family aerial drones of the type it had previously expressed interest in acquiring. If consummated, the deal will be the first armed drone export since a Cold War-era arms accord among 34 nations was reinterpreted by the U.S. to enable defense contractors to sell more drones to allies. The UAE already has a major F-35 fighter jet acquisition in the notification pipeline. Informal notification is an antecedent to the State Department’s formal, public notification process to Congress. Formal notification provides Congress with 30-days to object to any sales. However, the Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees can review and block weapons sales under an informal review process prior to the State Department’s formal notification. This is the second announced drone deal following this past summer’s change in American export strategy. The first, announced earlier this week, is a $600 million package to Taiwan for the sale of unarmed SeaGuardian aerial drones.