• U.S. has assured Israel of maintaining its "qualitative military edge"
  • The sale is yet to be discussed by House of Representatives and the Senate
  • F-35 jets can be bought by 14 countries as of now

The Trump administration intends to sell as many as 50 F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates in a deal that could be valued at $10 billion, CNN reported, citing the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The sale could alter the military balance in the region, where several hostile Muslim countries, especially Iran, are ranged against Israel.

But Israel withdrew its previous objections to the deal after the U.S. worked to build diplomatic ties between the two West Asian nations last week. The U.S. is required, from the 1960s, to ensure that Israel has military superiority in the Gulf region by maintaining a “qualitative military edge,” which the White House has assured will be done.

The Israeli Air Force itself flies two squadrons of the fifth-generation fighter jets, which give the country a massive edge over its neighbors. Last year, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel can reach Iran, but Iran cannot reach Israel in an obvious reference to the F-35's capabilities. The Israelis also were the first to use the plane in a combat role for the first time, flying them over Beirut and Syria.

The UAE has been trying for years to buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets for its military, the best stealth jets currently flying. Abu Dhabi now has one of the most advanced militaries in the Middle East.

A 2018 file photo of an Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II
A file photo of an F-35 Lightning II AFP / JACK GUEZ

However, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., expressed concern about the proposed sale could degrade Israel’s military edge in the region, allow the technology to get into the hands of Russia and China, and lead to an arms race in the region.

He said in a statement: “This technology would significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a game-changing stealth platform boasting advanced strike capability. The export of this aircraft requires careful consideration and Congress must analyze all the ramifications.”

The deal could be finalized in the next few months, although it still face roadblocks in the House of Representatives and the Senate. This was an informal notification, after which a formal notice will be sent to Congress, which will then have 30 days to review the sale.

Netanyahu referred to the deal in a press conference Thursday, saying that the U.S. had given strong assurances to the Israel government about preserving his country's military edge in the region.

Lockheed Martin’s Global F-35 Enterprise program has eight partners: U.S., United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Canada. Six Foreign Military Sales customers are also procuring and operating the F-35: Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Belgium and Singapore.

Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program in July last year and lost all its production work on the jet in March, 2020, after it incorporated into its military the Russian-made S-400 air defense system.