THE DEPARTMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE last week released its latest quarterly data for military and dual-use export licences issued between April-June 2022. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has now completed its analysis of the data, made available on CAAT’s online data browser.

The largest recipients, in terms of the value of single licences for military exports were:

  • Qatar – £2.6 billion
  • Saudi Arabia – £746 million
  • USA – £406 million

CAAT’s analysis shows that the great majority of the value of licences to Saudi Arabia were for “components for bombs”, worth £698 million, as part of a licence issued on 20 June. These are most likely for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs, produced by Raytheon Systems UK, which have been extensively used by Saudi Arabia in their devastating bombing campaign in Yemen.

A shaky truce prevailed in Yemen from April to September this year, though with little movement towards a peace agreement. The truce was not renewed in October, and there has been an upsurge in fighting in some areas. Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have not resumed, but the risk of a return to full-scale conflict remains.

The biggest recipient of UK arms during the period was Qatar, currently hosting the World Cup, amidst outcry over the appalling death toll among migrant workers building the stadiums for the event, as well as Qatar’s criminalisation of LGBTQ people. A £2.4 billion licence was issued in May for combat aircraft and their components. The first three of 24 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft ordered by Qatar were delivered by BAE Systems in August.

The largest share of the value of single licences issued for the US were for small arms, including 28,150 sniper rifles, 6,000 rifles, and over 16,000 sporting guns.

On the export of bomb components to Saudi Arabia, Sam Perlo-Freeman of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:  “These weapons have one overriding purpose: to enable Saudi Arabia to resume its horrific bombing of Yemen should the worst happen and the country return to full-scale war. Beyond this, they strengthen and uphold a brutal regime that executes minors on trumped-up charges, routinely tortures prisoners to obtain confessions, and sends women to prison for decades for Tweets critical of the government. We are taking the UK government to court in January to prove – again – that these sales are illegal.”

The government publishes its export control data in an online searchable database. However, the data as presented is limited in detail, AND the database does not allow for fine-grained analysis. CAAT’s interactive data tool is generated by an automated algorithm which “scrapes” data from the online database by conducting thousands of overlapping searches, allowing the user to pinpoint the date on which licences were issued, and, in many cases, the value of licences for specific items or groups of items. For example, the figure for “components for bombs” cited above can only be identified using CAAT’s data tool.

Up until August 2015, numerous licences were issued for Saudi Arabia for “bombs”, as well as related components, technology, and equipment. Since then, licences have not included complete bombs, but have included several very large licences for components for bombs and other related goods. The reason for this is not clear. It is possible that the final assembly of the bombs takes place in Saudi Arabia.

CAAT’s second Judicial Review against arms sales to Saudi Arabia will be heard at the High Court of Justice from 31 January to 2 February 2023.

* CAAT’s interactive data browser is available here

* Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade