The Middle East accounted for more than 50 per cent of the US's foreign military sales last year amid ongoing regional conflicts, a senior American defence official said.
US sales of weapons and other military products to the Middle East reached $30 billion out of a total $55bn of foreign sales in the 2018 fiscal year, according to Lt Gen Charles Hooper, director of the US government’s Defence Security Co-operation Agency. He did not disclose a breakdown by country.
“Our products and services are the best in the world and we are not only hopeful, but will take every step and do everything possible, to ensure we remain a partner of choice in the UAE and wider Middle East,” Lt Hooper told the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
The agency, which is part of the United States Department of Defence, facilitates the transfer of defence material, financial and technical assistance, and training and services to allied nations across the world, as well as brokering military deals.
Lt Hooper said the agency is undergoing a strategic transformation to cut costs and speed up the process of military transfers. “We are razor-focussed on improving the time frame for countries to receive much-needed material,” he told the conference.
In addition, the agency wants to boost military skills and education for its 20,000 qualified personnel working across partner nations and beyond, by launching a certified training programme in the coming year.
This will be rolled out at a new Defence Security Co-operation University due to open in Washington DC in the near future, as well as via “robust” online courses coordinated by the agency to train defence and security professionals in partner countries such as the UAE, the officer added.
“Our priority is to strengthen existing partnerships and attract new ones, while helping partners train up their workforce and modernise their military equipment, he said.
The agency is also working to incorporate US legislative changes enacted last year that overhaul the States’ arms transfer policy and seek reduce the risk of civilian harm.
At Idex on Sunday, Lt Hooper also revealed that the US and UAE plan to build a major new military hospital in Abu Dhabi for Emirati and American troops. The UAE facility, which will be based on the US Army’s Landstuhl hospital in Germany, will include trauma, rehabilitation and burns treatment facilities.
Discussions with the UAE are still under way. The Emirates is to fund the hospital, but US staff will be sent to work there, Lt Hooper added.