The United Arab Emirates has requested the purchase of 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft and the upgrade of its existing F-16 Block 60 fleet. (Karim Shaib / AFP via Getty Images)
DUBAI — While Iraq’s request to purchase Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles has garnered headlines this week, two other regional countries have received approval to buy US military equipment.
The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) has notified Congress that it has approved key foreign military sales to the United Arab Emirates and Libya last week, bring the total worth of approvals to $7.1 billion.
According to the agency, the UAE has requested the purchase of 30 F-16 Block 61 aircraft and the upgrade of its existing F-16 Block 60 fleet at the estimated cost of $270 million. Libya has requested personnel training for 6,000 to 8,000 troops at an estimated cost of $600 million. Iraq’s request to purchase and lease equipment of Apaches attack helicopters and equipment along with Hellfire missiles for its counterinsurgency operations is worth about $6.9 billion.
The UAE request also includes 40 20mm M61A guns and 40 embedded GPS inertial navigation systems.
“Also included: are Identification Friend or Foe equipment; joint mission planning systems; night vision devices; cartridge activated device/propellant activated devices; weapons integration; spare and repair parts; tools and test equipment; personnel training and training equipment; publications and technical documentation; international engine management program-component improvement program; repair and return; aerial refueling support; ferry maintenance and services; site surveys; US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support,” according to the DSCA.
According to Matthew Hedges, military analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, the announcement of the additional F-16 Block 61 deal to the UAE highlights an important point.
“The upgraded avionics and communications systems, specifically to enable the upgraded UAE Air Force and air defense, [will allow the UAE] to not only efficiently communicate with next generation fighters such as the F-35 and F-22 Raptor, but also streamline operational effectiveness when part of an international coalition, something [they] have had previous problems with,” he said. “This suggests that the UAE will stick with an enlarged F-16 fleet until the F-35 becomes available for export as other options put forward to the UAE have failed to meet their operational requirements.”
This fleet expansion allows the UAE Air Force to further expand its capabilities, both operationally and mechanically on the craft and enlarge its indigenous maintenance, repair and operations market, he added.
On Iraq, Hedges said the sale of Hellfire missiles suggests a greater urgency by the US to enable regional armed forces to combat sources of regional instability.
“Hellfire missiles suggests a steep increased in lethality for the Iraqi armed forces and the sale of these from the US will encourage tighter relations between the two nations,” he said.
According to the DSCA, the Iraqi government requested 500 AGM-114K/R Hellfire missiles, Hellfire missile conversion, blast fragmentation sleeves, and installation kits, containers, transportation, spare and repair parts, support equipment, personnel training and training equipment, publications and technical documentation in addition to US government and contractor technical, engineering and logistics support services.
“Iraq will use the Hellfire missiles to help improve the Iraq Security Forces’ capability to support current on-going ground operations,” the agency said.
Furthermore, the purchase request of 24 AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters, and a further 480 Hellfire missiles and over 60 missile launchers reflects the struggle for influence in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq between the US and Iran, Hedges said.
“This deal can also be seen in light of the struggle the Iraqis have given the resurgence of al-Qaida in the form of the [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] specifically in the Anbar province.”
The agency last week also announced the Libyan government has requested a sale of training equipment and expertise for 6,000 to 8,000 forces.
“The training includes services for up to eight years for training, facilities sustainment and improvements, personnel training and training equipment, 637 M4A4 carbines and small arms ammunition, US government and contractor technical and logistics support services, organizational clothing and individual equipment, and other related elements of logistical and program support,” the DSCA said.
“The request by the Libyans to enhance long term capabilities through a long term training contract with the US will help the Libyans stabilize their conflict-ridden nation,” Hedges said.
The training and logistical support will help discipline and professionalize an armed forces, which in post-Gadhafi Libya has been rife with tribal squabbling, he added. “The Libyan armed forces can help unite the country, which in recent times was increasingly looking like a potential split between the east and west.”
According to the DSCA, the implementation of this sale will require the assignment of 350 US government and contractor personnel for up to eight years at the Novo Selo training site in Bulgaria.
“The expansion of a formally trained armed forces will have to be managed carefully as the Libyan armed forces was often used as a tool of repression by Qadaffi and deemed to be biased towards certain tribal affiliations.
“If a neutral Libyan military can positively grow, then it can be a uniting force for the country,” Hedges said.