The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Thursday that the Trump administration has informally notified Congress of its intent to move forward with a major arms sale to the United Arab Emirates involving advanced F-35 jets.
Two Democratic congressional aides said that the arms package involved 50 F-35 jets valued at some $10 billion.
“This technology would significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge,” the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel said in a statement.
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a game-changing stealth platform boasting advanced strike capability and unique sensor technology. The export of this aircraft requires very careful consideration and Congress must analyze all the ramifications. Rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest,” he added.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that, “as a matter of policy, the Department does not publicly confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they have been formally notified to Congress.”
The sale of the advanced fighter jets to the UAE was reportedly something that was put on the fast track by the Trump administration as it worked to establish diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel.
The start of this informal process means that the sale could be finalized in the next few months. The period of time between now and when the formal notification of this sale is sent to Congress depends on the nature and number of the questions that State gets from Congress. But generally about 20-40 days later, State officially notifies Congress the sale. Congress then has 30 days to review it.
Israel’s government initially opposed the sale and publicly denied any linkage between the delivery of the jets to the Emiratis and the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE.
Israel’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister recently issued a statement saying it was not opposed to certain arm sales to Arab states following reassurances from the Trump administration that Israel’s “qualitative military edge” would be maintained.
Israel is currently the only country in the region that possesses the F-35.
The State Department did not reply to a request for comment.