UAE F-35 deal moving fast and not affected by changeover, says US official

US commitment to sell stealth fighter jets 'will carry over to Joe Biden's administration'

The $23 billion sale of stealth fighters and other military equipment to the UAE is moving ahead fast and will not be affected by next month’s change of administration, a senior US State Department official said on Wednesday.

R Clarke Cooper, an assistant secretary in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said the sale of 50 F-35 Lightning II aircraft and other gear, which cleared a congressional hurdle this month, was “moving at a very deliberate pace”.

US and Emirati officials are now poring over the letters of offer and acceptance and assessing the deal “line by line” so the “parameters are understood before proceeding”, Mr Cooper said.

“Our intent is to have those done as soon as able."

The deal was brokered under President Donald Trump, but it would probably not be affected by the switch to the administration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20, Mr Cooper said.

"When we make a decision, or commitment, as a government, that holds," he said.

“Commitments like that certainly would … hold in place and are transcendent of any kind of change of government.”

Democratic senators the past week failed to pass a bill to stop the arms sale, clearing the way for the UAE to become the first Arab nation to fly stealth fighters and the second country in the region after Israel.

The deal also includes precision-guided bombs and Reaper drones.

Mr Biden has not commented directly on the sale.

His nominee for secretary of state, Tony Blinken, has spoken of the need for Israel to maintain a military edge over its neighbours.

The Biden administration would look at the deal “very, very carefully", Mr Blinken said.

The UAE has long sought to acquire US-built stealth fighters, but signing the deal to normalise ties with Israel in September brought the sale to a conclusion.