Editor’s Note: We’ve already seen Israel balking at the idea of F-15s being sold to Qatar, but General Lloyd Austin, chief of United States Central Command, is in favor of both Boeing and Lockheed-Martin selling their latest variants of fourth-generation aircraft to partner nations in the Persian Gulf region. Complicating matters are the Iranian nuclear deal, as well as the apparent hesitance by the White House to allow the sales to go forward.
Qatar is seeking Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagles while Kuwait wants Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets. Bahrain, meanwhile, is keen to boost its inventory of Lockheed Martin F-16s.
However, the White House has been slow to respond, putting potential deals in jeopardy as Middle East nations warm to European fighter types like the Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon.
A perceived threat to Israel and a nuclear agreement with Iran have further complicated matters.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 8 March, Austin said he supports fighter sales to Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. He was responding to a question by committee chairman Sen John McCain, who has advocated for those pending deals to move forward.
Israel falls within the US European Command area of responsibility.
McCain expressed concerns about Russia’s export of advanced military armaments to Iran, worth upward of $8 billion, he says.
“Certainly, that will enable them to have greater capabilities, our adversaries,” Austin responded. “I will say, at the same time, the [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries have spent some $10 billion on military hardware during the same time period.”
Production of all three fourth-generation fighters — the F-15, F/A-18 and F-16 — has been winding down as the US military and 11 international customers move to the Lockheed-Martin F-35.
The original article on Flight Global can be viewed in its entirety right here.
(Featured graphic courtesy of Lockheed-Martin)