UAE has to choose – either 5G from Huawei or F-35s

RIYADH, BM, ($1=3.67 dirham) – In July 2020, the British government finally decided to exclude the Chinese equipment manufacturer Huawei from the future 5G telecommunications network, after a standoff with the Trump administration, which had threatened not to deploy F-35 fighter jets in the UK.

“Huawei and other state-backed Chinese tech companies are trojans for Chinese intelligence,” then repeated Mike Pompeo, then US foreign minister.

Founded by a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA], the Huawei group is indeed accused of having close ties to Chinese intelligence. Hence the American maneuvers to exclude him from the 5G networks of NATO members … But not only.

Indeed, according to the Bloomberg agency, the United States has asked the United Arab Emirates to remove all equipment provided by Huawei from its 5G network within the next four years in exchange for the delivery of 50 F- 35A and 18 MALE [Medium Altitude Long Endurance] MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones.

As a reminder, during the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the United Arab Emirates signed several arms contracts, for a total of $ 23 billion. This had given rise to strong criticism in Congress, where two motions to prevent them were debated.

Among the arguments put forward by opponents of these arms sales, there was the risk of giving access to F-35 and MQ-9B technologies to China and Russia, two countries cultivating certain proximity with the Emirates. However, none of these resolutions was adopted. However, one of the first decisions of the Biden administration was to suspend these contracts for review.

Until now, the presence of Huawei in the Emirati 5G network had not posed a problem – at least officially – while the Chinese group had been selected by the operator Etisalat in 2019. Indeed, the question could have been raised long before the UAE’s acquisition plans.

Indeed, the US Air Force has two airbases in this country [those of Al Minhad and Al-Dhafra, also used by the Air & Space Army, note]. And F-35As were first deployed there in April 2019. In addition, the Fujairah Naval Base serves as a support point for the US Navy.

However, the Biden administration does intend to use the sale of the F-35A and MQ-9B to keep Huawei out of the UAE telecom networks.

“Although the [F-35] aircraft’s communications networks are considered relatively immune to Chinese eavesdropping, Huawei’s presence in the [Emirati] networks could potentially allow China to spy on pilots and the subcontractors […] in the bases where the F-35 would be deployed,” writes Bloomberg.

However, Emirati leaders believe that it would take longer to find an alternative to Huawei. And, according to the news agency, they “clearly expressed their dissatisfaction with the request” from Washington. And the “differences are serious enough that there is still no guarantee” on the delivery of the F-35A to the Emirates.

However, the offer in terms of 5th generation aircraft is rather small … The Chinese J-20 is not a priori “exportable”. There remains the Russian Su-57 “Felon” and the American F-35A. This pressure from Washington concerning Huaweï could therefore benefit the former. Unless the Emirates revise their plans to opt for a generation 4.5 aircraft, like the Rafale.

“The wider Middle East is an area of ​​intense competition between the great powers. And I think as we adjust our position to it, Russia and China will be watching very closely if they can exploit a vacuum “that we could leave,” General McKenzie, the head of the United Kingdom, recently commented. US CENTCOM, the US military command for the Middle East and Central Asia.


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