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Top Gun

Where was the outrage when the United States sold its most advanced fighter to the UAE?

11:00 PM, Mar 9, 2006 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
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The other reason is that the Block 60 was a record-making program in which the small, Middle Eastern nation paid for the development of this variant of the fighter. In so doing, the cost of developing the AESA radar and much of the avionics suite used in the F-35 was significantly reduced. In other words, the UAE royal family's willingness to risk funding this technology--at a time when the expense of doing so was at its height and the certainty of what the end result would be was at its lowest--resulted in a huge windfall for the U.S. taxpayer when it came time to develop the F-35.

Havin spent a lot of time in the UAE over the last 13 years, I can see why it is one of the America's favorite regional partners. In contrast to most of its neighbors, it is a liberal and largely tolerant society that is free of violent political conflict and has a booming economy.

The UAE is considered to be such an island of sensible governance that other Middle Easterners who have the means to do so often quit their own nations and move to Dubai or Abu Dhabi--the two largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE. Dubai now has a growing colony of wealthy Iranians who have tired of the fanaticism of the regime at home and the stifling corruption that is part of everyday life in Iran.

Dubai and the other emirates are far from perfect models of democracy, but they are worlds ahead of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. If there is any hope for the region at all, it will be because other countries become more like the UAE. One would think that such a nation would receive preferential treatment from the Congress rather than the abuse they have suffered recently.

Reuben F. Johnson is the Defense Correspondent for Aviation International News and for Military Periscope, a Washington, D.C.-based defense information service.