WASHINGTON: The US State Department gave Congress informal notification it plans to sell 18 sophisticated armed aerial drones to the United Arab Emirates in a deal worth as much as US$2.9 billion, people briefed on the notification said.
The move comes on the heels of last week's notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the middle-eastern country.
This would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a Cold War-era arms agreement between 34 nations to allow US defense contractors to sell more drones to allies.
Reuters has reported that UAE has long shown interest in purchasing drones from the United States and would be among the first customers in line after US export policy changed this summer.
A US$600 million deal to sell four unarmed but weapons-ready SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan was the first to be formally notified to Congress on Tuesday (Nov 3).
This informal notification for the Reaper-style drones is the precursor to the State Department's formal and public notification.
The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees - whose members have criticised UAE's role in civilian deaths in Yemen's civil war - have the ability to review and block weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.
The US State Department may wait to formally notify Congress of the sale once staff and members are briefed on the potential sale, one of the people said. The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales.