AMMAN: The US State Department has approved sales of advanced weapons to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the UAE set to benefit.
By placing Jordan and the UAE, which has been hit by Houthi rockets, in the same package as Saudi Arabia, the administration of US President Joe Biden appears to be hoping that the deal will not be blocked by Congress.
A simple majority could stop the deal, but Biden could veto this which would then require a two-thirds majority to overcome the veto.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.
It also approved Jordan’s request for 12 F-16C Block 70 fighter jets, radio targeting pods, and associated munitions components, including guided missile tail kits.
The prime contractor for the jets is Lockheed Martin Corp.
Saudi Arabia was approved to buy 31 Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals for as much as $23.7 million to upgrade its missile defense systems.
The UAE was approved to buy $30 million worth of spare and repair parts for its “Homing All the Way Killer” missile defense systems.
Retired Maj. Gen. Wasef Eriqat told Arab News that the advanced F-16 fighters would support the three countries’ armies, reflecting the depth of relations between the US and its Arab allies.
He said that Israel had blocked such sales in the past, but it appeared that the Biden administration had “not taken any Israeli objections — if they were made — into consideration.”
The military expert also said that the sale of the advanced equipment was a statement reflecting strong relations with the region as well as a political statement.
“It also complements the extensive training that has taken place in the US. I remember I was sent to train in the US in 1968 by the Jordanian army and I know many have followed suit. It reflects confidence and support to the country, and it also telegraphs to all others of the strong relationship between the US and the countries that are receiving the advanced weapons.”
Maamoun Abu Nowar, a retired two-star air force general, told Arab News that the deal was important for Jordan because it boosted the country’s position in the region.
He said that he and others in the Jordanian air force had flown F-16 fighters, but what the country had were F16-A and B jets while the new ones would be the modern F16-C type.
“But all fighter planes need to be updated regularly,” he added.
The sale to Jordan will boost a training center for F-16 fighters that the US has agreed to invest in.
The DSCA announced on Feb. 11, 2021, that the State Department had given the green light for a $60 million investment in the proposed center.
“The government of Jordan has requested to buy an F-16 Air Combat Training Center and devices, including full mission trainers, combat tactics trainers, instructor/operator stations, tactical environment simulators, brief/debrief stations, scenario generation stations, database generation stations, mission observation centers, and other training center equipment and support,” the agency said.
Abu Nowar said the sale of modern weapons to the UAE would also boost the Gulf state “in these trying times” where the Houthis were attacking them.
“It will not change the military balance, but it will strengthen the defensive capability of all the countries that will receive the advanced weaponry.”