The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday announced plans to order 12 L15 Falcon trainer and combat fighters from China, and said it could buy an additional 36 of the same fighters in the future. The announcement comes after the UAE threatened to cancel its contract with the United States for F-35 fighter jets. The U.S. is wary of the UAE's closer ties with China.
The United Arab Emirates announced plans Wednesday to order 12 L15 Falcon military aircraft from China, AFP reported today. The UAE threatened to cancel a contract to buy F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. several weeks ago. The U.S. is a partner country with which the UAE has strong ties as an ally.
The wealthy Gulf state of the UAE announced last December that it was suspending negotiations with the U.S. on the purchase of about 50 F-35 fighter jets, protesting that the terms were too strict. AFP said the case had a background of distrust in U.S. relations with China.
The United Arab Emirates intends to sign a contract with the China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation (CATIC) for the purchase of 12 L15s, with an option to buy 36 more of the same type in the future, according to the UAE Defense Ministry in a statement. The statement added, "We have reached the final stage of discussions with the Chinese side. The final contract will be signed soon," said Tareq Abdelrahim Al-Houssani, chief executive officer of Tawazun, the UAE's defense and security procurement agency. He said in a statement that he was confident that AVIC, a Chinese state-owned company, has cutting-edge technology that enjoys a competitive advantage worldwide.
The ministry also said the decision reflects the UAE Armed Forces' commitment to "diversification and modernization efforts" and stressed that the country "will continue to work with strategic partners to develop its defense capabilities.
Although a close ally of the Gulf nation, the U.S. has delayed the sale of F-35s to the UAE, an active member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, a country on the Arabian Peninsula that has been mired in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises as a result of a war that has lasted more than seven years. U.S. officials are also increasingly concerned about China's active relations with the Gulf state, where Beijing is already the fossil fuel-rich region's largest trading partner.
Earlier this year in February, Washington announced it was sending military reinforcements to help the United Arab Emirates respond to Houthi rebel attacks in Yemen.