DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --- Pentagon and State Department officials threw cold water on any notions of U.S. ally the United Arab Emirates (UAE) potentially getting the Lockheed Martin F-35 this week at the Dubai Air Show, as America’s flagship fifth-generation fighter jet made its first appearance at the Middle Eastern expo.
Talk of the Gulf state’s candidacy for the joint strike fighter — the most expensive military program in history — began two years ago when it was reported that President Donald Trump was considering a longtime request by Abu Dhabi to take initial steps toward future procurement of the F-35.
And at the last Dubai Air Show in 2017, U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson publicly confirmed rumors that such discussions with the UAE were underway.
But speaking to reporters in Dubai on Monday, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper signaled that was no longer the case.
“No, no,” Cooper told CNBC when asked whether those talks were happening. “The question (of) are there any considerations or conversations about the F-35 — the short answer is no.”
“The long answer,” he said, “is we have been working with them and continue to work with them on upgrading, expanding their F-16 capability and upgrading and expanding their F-16 posture, so that is where we are.” The UAE’s Air Force is home to a fleet of 80 F-16 Desert Falcons, a multi-role fighter aircraft.
The assistant secretary would not elaborate on whether the Emiratis still wanted the jet, but UAE military officials have previously expressed their desire for the fifth generation, or stealth, technology.
Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters the same week that “There have not been any classified briefings (with the UAE on the F-35). There will not be any discussions this week.” (end of excerpt)
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