Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government's bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium (Jane's Armour and Artillery 2009-10 pp. 664).
The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) ordered 261 of the vehicles in 2006 for delivery in 2008. Saudi forces entered Bahrain in a convoy of the Tacticas on 14 March, at the invitation of the Bahrain's ruling al-Khalifa family. It seems that the Saudi forces are being held in reserve, leaving the front-line repression of protesters by Bahrain's military and security forces.
Saudi Arabia has been a major market for market for UK arms since the 1960s. The majority of contracts have been through the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deals of the mid-1980s, and their successor, the Salam Project, which involved arms giant BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace). However, the Tactica purchase was not part of either package but a separate contract with SANG.
Bahrain is also a market for UK arms. In the first nine months of 2010, the UK approved export licenses for over £5 million worth of arms including tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. In response to an earlier crackdown, on 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked 24 individual licences and 20 open licences to Bahrain.
Kaye Stearman for CAAT says:
BAE's contract to supply the Tactica has been hidden in the shadow of their massive Al Yamamah arms deals but it still runs into millions of pounds worth of lethal weaponry. It is shameful that a British manufactured armoured vehicle is being used by Saudi Arabia to support repression of peaceful protest in a neighbouring country. CAAT calls for an immediate arms embargo on the Middle East and an end to arms exports to all repressive regimes.
For further information or an interview please contact CAAT's Media Coordinator, Kaye Stearman on 020 7281 0297 or mobile 07990 673 232 or email media(at)caat·org·uk . CAAT spokespeople will be available for interview and photographs will be available.
- Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade. Around 80% of CAAT's income is raised from individual supporters.
- According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI), BAE Systems is the world's largest arms producer. It makes fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery systems, missiles and munitions. Its foremost overseas markets are Saudi Arabia and the United States, with large sales also to Australia, India and South Africa.
- UK Trade & Investment opened the Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) in November 2008 to promote arms exports. UKTI now employs 160 civil servants to sell arms, which represent only 1.5% of exports. Peter Luff, Defence Equipment Minister, has said: There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to (arms sales). There is a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There is no such embarrassment in this Government. Foreign Secretary William Hague has also been upfront about his involvement in promoting BAE products to the rest of the world.
- The International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) the largest defence and security event in the Middle East and North African region, took place from Sunday 20 – Thursday 24 February, in Abu Dhabi, UAE. UK Trade organisation Aerospace|Defence|Security attended to continue its promotion of the UK defence and security industry's interests in the UAE and Middle East. Gerald Howarth, a defence minister, was in attendance. In the same week, Prime Minister David Cameron toured the region, accompanied by eight high-level arms trade representatives.
- The Al Yamamah ("Dove") agreements of the mid-1980's were between the Thatcher government in the UK and the Saudi Arabian government. Military equipment, especially Tornado and Hawk jets, were to be supplied by what is now BAE Systems. The deals also included servicing, spares and ancillary services. More recently, in 2005, BAE sold 72 of its Eurofighter Typhoons in a £4.4 billion deal called The Salam ("peace"). The Typhoons are replacing the Air Defence Variant Tornados supplied under the Al Yamamah deals; the remaining Tornados continue to be upgraded and serviced under what is now called Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme.
- UKTI DSO lists Saudi Arabia as a priority market. In 2009 the UK sold almost £1.7 billion worth of arms exports to the kingdom. It invited Saudi Arabia to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) in 2009.
- UKTI DSO has listed Bahrain as a key market for UK arms exports. It invited Bahrain to attend UK arms fairs, the Farnborough Airshow in 2010 and Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) in 2009. UKTI DSO supported the Bahrain International Airshow 2010, where it organised an outdoor event. It has used UK armed forces have been used in support of sales efforts, demonstrating arms to the Royal Bahrain Artillery.
- Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are classed as authoritarian regimes according to the Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy 2008.