Proposed Sale of F-35A Lighting IIs Follows Recognition of Israel by UAE.
The U.S. State Department has told Congress it approves of the potential sale of 50 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II 5th generation aircraft to the United Arab Emirates. The potential value of the contract is reported as $10.4 billion USD.
The announcement on Thursday comes after the United Arab Emirates official recognition of the state of Israel on Sept. 15, 2020. The Israeli Air Force already operates the F-35I Adir version of the Joint Strike Fighter and was the first country to use the aircraft in combat in Syria and another unspecified “front” in the Middle East.
Following the announcement, Lockheed Martin stock began trading higher on Wall Street. Shares were up $2.74 per at 2:47 PM to $353.50 per share, an increase of approximately 0.87 percent. Lockheed Martin’s financial performance has been consistently strong during the last five years, with the stock returning a dividend yield of 2.94% and a share price of increase of 0.80 percent. The success of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been a significant source of revenue for Lockheed Martin. The company may also be involved in a recently announced, classified program to produce a new Next Generation Air Dominance Fighter.
According to a story in Bloomberg.com about the potential sale, “Under American law, Israel is guaranteed weapons needed to maintain its ‘qualitative military edge’ over Arab nations. U.S. officials have said they can provide that assurance regardless of F-35 sales without specifying publicly what they would offer Israel.” This announcement may suggest that a different version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with scalable capabilities is offered to the UAE, maintaining a technological advantage for Israel’s unique F-35I Adir version of the aircraft.
U.S. Representative Eliot Engel (D, New York), said in a media statement on Thursday, “Rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest”. Engel went on to tell reporters that, “The F-35’s technology also must be safeguarded from our greatest global adversaries. With Russia and China active in the region, the American people will require unimpeachable assurances that our most advanced military capabilities will be protected.”
There were concerns about security surrounding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program after a Japanese Air Self Defense (JASDF) F-35A crashed off Japan’s northern coast in April 2019. JASDF F-35A aircraft #79-8705 sunk in deep water after crashing in the Pacific Ocean about 85 miles east of Misawa city near Aomori prefecture, the northern part of Japan’s main island of Honshu. A U.S. Navy recovery effort from a private deep-sea recovery vessel, the Singapore-operated ship Van Gogh, concluded recovery of at least some of the aircraft wreckage on May 8, 2019 according to the U.S. Navy. The cause of the crash, which killed 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi of the JASDF, was determined to be “spatial disorientation”.
The news of the potential sale, that has been in the air for some time, follows reports in the Greek Estia newspaper that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a virtual “green light” to the supply of 20 F-35s during his recent visit to Greece. According to the Greek media outlet, the deal “was discussed and agreed” according to Greek City Times. Noteworthy, as part of the deal, six jets will be purchased in 2022 and “will be delivered together with the first six Rafale fighter jets from France.” Among the jets there would be also six of the F-35s initially destined to the Turkish Air Force.