UAE to buy US-made drones in military expansion

A defense official in the United Arab Emirates says the Gulf nation has signed $1.4 billion in military contracts that include purchases of U.S.-made drones.

The deal, worth nearly $200 million and confirmed by Fox News, suggests Gulf Arab states are looking to boost surveillance capabilities to match claims by rival Iran of growing drone technology.

The UAE says the Predator drones, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, will not be outfitted for weapons capabilities, but used for reconnaissance.

Still, the use of drones has become a major and controversial topic since Americans learned last year that President Obama was secretly and personally ordering the use of missile-loaded ones to kill Americans living abroad and suspected of terrorism.

The issue resurfaced last week when the president agreed to give House and Senate intelligence committees access to a classified legal opinion on such strikes, which has resulted in Senate Republicans disagreeing over whether the solution is a federal drones court.

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Iran has claimed it has developed its own sophisticated drones and managed to reverse-engineer a CIA drone seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace.

UAE military spokesman Maj. Gen. Obaid al-Ketbi also said the deals include 750 U.S.-made mine-resistant vehicles.

The contracts were announced Monday at a defense show in Abu Dhabi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.