WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has cleared the United Arab Emirates to purchase 10 CH-47F Chinook cargo helicopters, with an estimated price tag of $830.3 million.
The potential deal was announced Thursday on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA. Such notifications are not guarantees of final sale; should the request be approved by Congress, quantities and dollar figures can change during negotiations.
This request represents the 10th Foreign Military Sales request from the UAE since the start of fiscal 2017, for a total approximate worth of $10.5 billion.
It is also the first Foreign Military Financing request cleared by the DSCA since the Trump administration declared a regional emergency in order to get several weapons packages pushed through Congress despite opposition on Capitol Hill, leading to bipartisan criticism of the move.
The UAE bought its first lot of CH-47Fs — 16 aircraft for estimated total of $2 billion — in 2009.
Boeing said earlier this year that it was relying on foreign military sales, including “30 helicopters or less” to the UAE, to shore up a delta between the production of its Block I version of the F-model and its Block II version.
The company needs FMS deals like the one with the UAE even more now that the U.S. Army is planning not to buy the Block II version for the active force. The service still plans to produce Block II aircraft for Army special operators.
Top Army officials have said they are working hard to mint FMS deals to help make up for the huge production gap left open following the service’s decision to not buy Block II F-models for the active force.
But Boeing told Defense News that it expected FMS deals would not lessen the blow and, so far, none of the anticipated sales are for Block II versions.
The UAE’s order, according to Boeing, was not for Block II, and the only other possible F-model sale to the United Kingdom is for extended range versions of the Block I version.
It is unclear which countries might actually be interested in Block II aircraft, but the service won’t be ready to offer those to foreign customers until after the variant’s qualification testing is completed in 2021.
The proposed sale “will expand the UAE’s helicopter fleet,” per the DSCA announcement. “Further, it will enhance the UAE’s operational and defensive capabilities to better defend U.S. and UAE national security interests in the region, and increase the UAE’s contributions to any future joint or coalition efforts requiring helicopter support.”
In addition to the helicopters themselves, the proposed package would include 26 T55-GA-714A engines; 24 embedded global positioning systems with inertial navigation system; 20 M134D-H mini-guns; and 20 M240H machine guns, as well as various transmitters and other equipment. Up to 10 U.S. government or contractor representatives will be needed in the UAE to help prepare the Chinooks for operations.
Primary work will be done at Boeing’s Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, facility, Honeywell Engine’s Phoenix, Arizona, location, and Science and Engineering Services in Huntsville, Alabama.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.