DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—The U.S. government is in the early stages of discussions about selling the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to the UAE and other allies in the Persian Gulf, according to top brass.                                                                       

The Israeli Air Force currently is the exclusive operator of Lockheed Martin’s stealth fighter in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi reportedly has asked repeatedly for a classified briefing on the program, but was rebuffed by the Obama administration due to Washington’s commitment to maintaining Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.

But soon, U.S. President Donald Trump could offer the aircraft to the UAE and other Gulf nations.

“Specifically the F-35, as we look at their requirements here in the Gulf, they share many of the same adversaries and challenges,” said U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson at a press conference here Nov. 10. “So we’d look to provide capabilities. The discussion is ongoing now with the new administration on selling F-35s to partner nations that need them and require them.”

Bilateral discussions on arms sales are closely held, but Wilson confirmed the U.S. and Gulf partners, including the UAE, have begun discussions on potential deals for the F-35.

“We’re always evaluating capabilities, what’s the optimum capabilities that our partners need?” Wilson said. “As we look here in the Middle East we share common threats, so we’re looking at options on who we’d share those with in the Gulf.”

Wilson spoke here just days ahead of the start of the Dubai Airshow, the largest aerospace exhibition in the Middle East.