MADRID – The Spanish arms trade was a booming business in Spain in 2021. The country’s industry exported nearly €3.3 billion in weapons that year. Also to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Weapons worth €200 million went to those two countries. This was all before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and the ensuing geopolitical turmoil. However, the total amount of arms exports was 9.1% less than what was registered in 2020.
Allied countries were the main customers
The main customers of the national arms industry were allied countries such as France or Germany. Yet commercial ties were also strengthened with countries in geopolitically more difficult areas. This includes Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. The material sold to these countries was for an amount that was a multiple of that registered in 2020.
Exported material used in the war in Yemen?
Following the regulations regulating the trade in defence equipment, the government had to give the green light for all sales activities of these types of products. On Wednesday, several parliamentary groups asked the Secretary of State for Trade, Xiana Méndez, in parliament about the suspicions that this material could be used in the war in Yemen, in which Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are participating. The law prohibits the sale of weapons to countries where “there is reasonable evidence” that “they could be used for actions that disrupt peace, stability or security at a global or regional level”. According to the secretary of state, Spain has no evidence that any exported weapons material is used in the war in Yemen.
Arms sales to Persian Gulf countries continued to grow
Sales of Spanish weapons to the monarchies in the Persian Gulf have continued to grow in recent years;
- in 2021 the industry exported defence equipment worth €109.1 million to Saudi Arabia (in 2020, the Saudi monarchy spent a total of €48.3 million)
- €73.7 million to the United Arab Emirates (compared to €27.7 million last year) and €33.3 million to Oman (€31 million in 2020)
Saudi Arabia acquired for its armed forces “parts, pieces, and spare parts” for Spanish-made military transport aircraft, as well as “equipment, technology, parts and pieces of combat aircraft”. The Saudis also bought “four troopships, remote controls for weapons of various calibres, mortar shells” or “artillery shells”. This is stated in the government report.
The Emirates purchased a complete military transport aircraft, as well as “parts, pieces and spares” for other aircraft, “remote controls for weapons of various calibres” or a mortar, and various types of grenades and ammunition.
“65 unarmoured Spanish vehicles” went to Oman, as well as “maritime security and surveillance systems, spare parts for an integrated air surveillance system, and spare parts for an anti-aircraft gun.”
Other notable customers
Outside of EU and NATO allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the largest buyers. However, they are not the only striking purchase agreements. In Pakistan, for example, the national arms industry sold weapons and equipment for more than €40 million. Egypt bought “Spanish-made transport aircraft parts, pieces, and spare parts” for €27.6 million. And the Philippines spent $51.3 million on a military transport aircraft, an “advanced observation system” and various weapons and ammunition.
According to the newspaper 20Minutos, Morocco deserves a special mention. That country, despite the cooled diplomatic relations with Spain last year, bought weapons worth €14.9 million. That is almost €2.5 million more than the neighboring country’s expenditure on Spanish weapons and defense equipment in 2020.
See also: Spain sends weapons to Ukraine anyway