The Pentagon is considering a significant sale of Joint Direct Attack Munitions made by Boeing Co, adding to other recent arms deals with the UAE. These include the sale of 500 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles about which US lawmakers were notified in September.
No comment was immediately available from the Pentagon's press office or the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales.
Boeing has sold thousands of JDAM bombs to the United States and its allies in recent months as they have replenished their arsenal of the popular precision-guided bombs.
Boeing spokesman Garrett Kasper said the company was unable to discuss the proposed contract since it would involve a foreign military sale, something that would be discussed at a government-to-government level.
The proposed sale, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, would expand the existing capabilities of UAE's Air Force to target buildings such as the bunkers and tunnels where Iran is believed to be developing nuclear or other weapons. The newspaper said Washington was eyeing the sale of 4,900 of the so-called smart bombs.
The sale of Boeing-built "bunker-buster" bombs and other munitions to UAE, a key Gulf ally, is part of an ongoing US effort to build a regional coalition to counter Iran.
Tension over Iran's nuclear program has increased since last week when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a bomb and may still be conducting secret research to that end.
The Obama administration is trying to build up the 6 members of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a unified counterweight to Iran. Recent arms deals approved by the administration include a record $60 billion plan to sell Saudi Arabia advanced F-15 aircraft, some 2,000-pound (907-kg) JDAMs and other powerful munitions.
The US government also approved the sale of a $7 billion terminal missile defense program to UAE that would be built by Lockheed Martin.
Washington has also sought to build up missile-defense systems across the region, with the goal of building an integrated network to defend against short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles from Iran.
The UAE has a fleet of advanced US-made F-16 fighters, also built by Lockheed, that could carry the JDAMs. Once the Pentagon formally notifies lawmakers about a proposed sale, they have 30 days to raise objections, although such action is rare since sales are carefully vetted with Congress before they are formally announced.
This sale will likely include other weapons systems, including military aircraft and other weapons, according to the source familiar with the plans.
Source: Reuters; The Wall Street Journal