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Israel likely to manufacture F-35 wings for UAE: Report

Both Israel and the UAE have denied reports that the sale of the fighter jets was part of their controversial normalisation deal
Israel's state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is expected to manufacture wings for F-35 aircraft intended for sale to the UAE, according to a newspaper report (AFP/file photo)

Israel will probably manufacture wings for F-35 fighter jets the United States is considering selling to the United Arab Emirates following the controversial normalisation deal signed earlier this week, an Israeli paper reported on Thursday.

There have been mixed reports in Israel of possible US arms sales to the UAE as part of the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denying any such provisions exist. The UAE has also denied the reports.

Netanyahu had initially given the green light to the F-35 sales but reversed his position after facing a backlash from political opponents at home, according to US and Israeli media reports.

However, ahead of the signing of the deal on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump told Fox News that he would not oppose the sale of the advanced fighter jets to the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

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“I would have no problem in selling them the F-35, I would have absolutely no problem,” he said, explaining it would be good for the American economy. 

“They are very wealthy countries for the most part, like the UAE, and they would like to buy the fighter jets, and I personally would have no problem with it,” Trump added. “Some people do, they say maybe they go to war.”

In his recent trip to the region, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Netanyahu that Washington would ensure Israel's military advantage in any future arms deals with Abu Dhabi.

‘High chance’ F-35 wings to be made in Israel

The report by Calcalist, an Israeli business daily, cited sources as saying that Washington and the US arms company Lockheed Martin are expected to discuss the sale of F-35 aircraft to the UAE, and that “there is a high chance” that the F-35 wings will be manufactured by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). 

The IAI production line in Lod is one of three manufacturers of F-35 wings in the world, supplying them for aircraft intended for non-American or Nato customers.

The Lockheed Martin-produced F-35 is one of the most powerful warplanes in the world, with the ability to evade radars, conduct strikes on targets on the ground and engage in air combat.

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The Texas-based wing production line of Lockheed Martin supplies the US army, while another production line in Italy is used for aircraft purchases by Nato countries, the paper explained. 

The Lockheed Martin production line in the Israeli city of Lod is used for aircraft purchased by countries from the rest of the world, including those of the Israeli Air Force. 

The paper added that the price of a pair of wings is about $3m, and so far the Israel-based plant has produced 100 pairs. 

“The company has a framework contract with Lockheed for the production of up to 800 pairs of wings, worth $2b. However there is still no final decision on the matter,” said the report. 

It added that another Israeli company, Elbit Systems, will be a likely beneficiary of the UAE deal, as it co-manufactures advanced helmets for F-35 pilots with the US multinational Rockwell Collins. Each helmet is worth $400,000.

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