UAE-US Security Relationship


The UAE occupies a critical strategic position on the Arabian Gulf, where nearly one-quarter of the world’s oil is produced and shipped. The UAE and the United States share a common resolve to preserve security and stability in the Gulf. US homeland security is tied directly to the UAE’s role as a source of that security and stability.

The foundation for the UAE-US bilateral security relationship is the 1994 Defense Cooperation Agreement. The pact permits the United States to base troops and equipment within UAE federation borders. Jebel Ali port, in Dubai, is crucial to US naval operations, as it is the only harbor in the Gulf deep enough to berth an aircraft carrier.

Military Assistance and Cooperation

The UAE is only one of three countries and the only Arab nation to participate with the US in six coalition actions over the last 20 years: Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Bosnia-Kosovo, the 1990 Gulf War and the fight against ISIS. The UAE has deployed forces and/or provided assistance in:

  • Afghanistan:  The UAE's special forces are the only Arab personnel undertaking full-scale operations in the country, an ongoing ten-year commitment.  
  • Libya: The UAE deployed a dozen fighter jets for combat missions under NATO command to protect the Libyan people throughout the conflict, and support the National Transitional Council.
  • Somalia: In 1992 the UAE joined other countries, led by the US Central Command, to secure the environment and provide humanitarian relief.  The UAE is also fighting piracy and helping to stabilize Somalia.
  • Bosnia-Kosovo: The UAE was among the first non-NATO states to express support for NATO’s air operations.  The UAE participated in peacekeeping operations, and provided humanitarian assistance during and after the conflict. 
  • 1990 Gulf War: The UAE was one of the first countries to support the United States at the advent of the war. 
  • Fight Against ISIS: Committed to combating Islamic extremism in all of its forms, the UAE is participating in a multinational mission with the US and other partners to confront ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

The UAE provides ongoing and essential support for US forces, and contributes to efforts to fight terrorism and extremism, while working to increase stability and peace in the region.  The UAE is:

  • Combating extremists such as Al Qaeda.
  • Facilitating a peaceful transition in Yemen and preventing extremist control.
  • Actively supporting the Mideast peace process.
  • Hosting more than 2,000 US military personnel.
  • Headquarters for Hedayah, the new Global Center for Excellence in Countering Violent Extremism. Hedayah was created in response to the growing desire from Global Counter-Terrorism Forum members and the wider international community for the establishment of an independent, multilateral center devoted to training, dialogue, collaboration, and research.
  • Providing critical logistics support for US Navy fleet operations; US Naval vessels visit UAE ports more than any other foreign ports in the world.
  • Supporting US Air Force operations by assisting with logistics at facilities in the UAE.
  • Hosting the Joint Air Warfare Center and joint training exercises with US forces.

Rebuilding Iraq 

The UAE is meeting its commitments to Iraq reconstruction by providing important financial and in-kind support, including medical treatment, hospital reconstruction, humanitarian supplies and police training.

Shutting Down Terror Finance Networks

The UAE has frozen the accounts of known terrorists and enacted aggressive anti-money-laundering initiatives. New counter-terrorist financing laws and regulations have been introduced and enforced, and in 2005 the UAE committed to the International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

Protecting US-Bound Shipments and Helping Secure Global Energy Supply

Dubai is the sixth largest port in the world for container traffic and the first Middle East entity to join the Container Security Initiative (CSI). In a multinational program to protect global trade from terrorism, CSI stations US Customs officers inside Dubai's ports. The UAE also secures the delivery of oil and gas supplies to world energy markets.

Preventing the Spread of Dangerous Nuclear Materials

Dubai was the first Middle East entity to join the Department of Energy's Megaports Initiative, aimed at stopping illicit shipments of radioactive material. The UAE has committed to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and is a signatory to the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism.


The UAE and the United States share a deep concern over Iran’s nuclear development and its impact on peace and stability in the entire region. The UAE fully supports and enforces United Nations Security Council resolutions barring shipment of sensitive materials and technologies to Iran.

Located just across the Gulf, the UAE and Iran have historic ties, including a significant trading relationship. The UAE, with the Gulf Cooperation Council, seeks a region free of weapons of mass destruction.


The UAE has a military presence in Afghanistan, with a strictly defensive purpose, consistent with the UAE Constitution. The UAE Armed Forces on the ground are focused on the protection of humanitarian initiatives and ensuring safety and stability for local communities. Personnel are also directly involved in culturally sensitive community development activities, especially necessitating knowledge of the Arabic language or Islamic traditions, alongside representatives of key humanitarian organizations such as the Red Crescent.

Defense Cooperation

The UAE and US Armed Forces regularly cooperate on both training and operational missions and exercises to strengthen this important alliance. This is evidenced by a recent exercise called Red Flag held at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.  Please view Desert Falcons, a documentary about a group of Emirati F-16 fighter pilots and maintenance officers from the UAE Air Force, representing their country for the first time at the world's most challenging aerial combat exercise.


The UAE has turned to the United States as a major defense supplier, to help ensure interoperability of forces.  In 2009, the US Congress approved a UAE request to purchase more than $15 billion in US defense equipment. Included in this package is the world’s most sophisticated missile defense system, making the UAE the only country, other than the United States, to deploy this technology.

The UAE currently has a number of military equipment programs with the United States, including:

  • Patriot PAC-3 (Raytheon and Lockheed Martin) 
  • HAWK Air Defense Missile System (Raytheon) 
  • AH-64 Apache Longbow Helicopter (Boeing) 
  • UAE Air Force Command and Control System (Northrop Grumman) 
  • C-130 Cargo Aircraft (Lockheed Martin) 
  • C-17 Aircraft (Boeing)
  • F-16 E/F Advanced Fighter Aircraft (Lockheed Martin) 
  • Multiple weapon systems associated with F-16 E/F (Northrop Grumman, Raytheon)
  • UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopters (Sikorsky Aircraft) 
  • High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Lockheed Martin) 
  • Maverick air-to-surface missiles (Raytheon)  
  • In the pipeline: AVENGER, SLAMRAAM, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system, known as THAAD.
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