‘Diversifying’ suppliers, UAE strikes deal with China to buy fighter jets

Originally posted by The Middle East Monitor website, 25 February 2022

With growing fears of a new cold war between the West and Russia and China, the UAE has announced that it is on the verge of completing a deal with Beijing to purchase 12 of its L15 aircraft with the option for 36 additional aircraft of the same type in the future.

Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani, chief executive officer of Tawazun Economic Council, said the deal comes as part of the ongoing efforts to diversify and modernise capabilities of the Air Force and the Armed Forces units in general.

“We have reached the final stage in our talks with the Chinese side. The final contract will be signed soon,” Al Hosani is reported saying by the official Emirati news agency WAM. “The UAE Armed Forces are characteristic for diversification to acquire the best capabilities to meet its requirements and to achieve its strategic goals.”

The value of the deal was not disclosed by WAM.

The timing of the deal is likely to raise eyebrows and further speculation that Washington and Abu Dhabi do not see eye to eye. In December the UAE suspended talks with the US regarding a $23 billion deal for the purchase of 50 F-35 fighter jets, 18 armed drones and missiles.

US officials have also been increasingly concerned by China’s involvement with the US ally, and this latest announcement to purchase 12 of its L15 aircraft will do nothing to allay their concerns.

The sale also comes as Russia launches an invasion of Ukraine, triggering talks of a new cold war between the West and its two main foes, Moscow and Beijing. So far China has not joined Western states in full condemnation of President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade his neighbour.

In further indication that the Gulf state may find itself in a precarious position if it continues to deepen ties with the Chinese Communist Party, in May officials in Washington said that US weapons sale to the UAE could be at jeopardy due to concern over Abu Dhabi’s growing relations with China.

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