Why F-35s Should Not Be Released to the UAE and Saudi Arabia

(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University) Col. (ret.) Shimon Arad - President Trump has publicly indicated that he is giving serious consideration to the release of the F-35 stealth figter jet to the UAE. However, such a move will have significant adverse consequences for Israel that need to be considered. First, such a decision would represent a significant digression from America's historical commitment to preserving Israel's qualitative military edge (QME). In the volatile Middle East, circumstances and intentions change rapidly. Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan are susceptible to public hostility. Given this innate vulnerability, the U.S. has refrained to date from providing Egypt and Jordan with its most advanced military capabilities, thereby safeguarding Israel's military superiority vis-a-vis its existing peace partners. Second, the decision to release the F-35 to the UAE would be a precedent that it would be impossible not to extend to other Gulf states - especially Saudi Arabia. In consequence, Israel's aerial superiority will be undermined. Once this threshold is crossed, it will be harder for Washington to deny other highly advanced weapons systems to Egypt or Jordan. Even if the Gulf version of the F-35 were downgraded, it would still provide game-changing stealth and network capabilities that would make the hundreds of already existing advanced fighters in the Arab air forces even more lethal. Third, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have no real military need for the F-35. Their existing F-16s and F-15s are more than a match for Iran's outdated air force. The attack last September on Saudi Arabia's oil processing facilities by Iran illustrates the Gulf States' need for improved defensive capabilities rather than for the means to carry out surprise stealth attacks.

2020-09-03 00:00:00

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