Sunday, November 7, 2010

DTN News: Middle East - Arab Gulf States On A Puzzling Arms-Buying Spree

Defense News: DTN News: Middle East - Arab Gulf States On A Puzzling Arms-Buying Spree
Source: By Brenda Sorensen in Stockholm, DTN News - - This article compiled by Roger Smith from reliable sources
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - November 7, 2010: Mystery shrouds high levels of military spending and arms procurement in the Gulf states among which Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stand out, says a new document by the eminent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

A report in September 2010 reported that Saudi Arabia had sought the U.S. Government's permission to purchase large numbers of combat aircraft and helicopters from American companies.
"This was just the latest indication that Saudi Arabia is planning a new arms-purchasing spree similar to that in the 1990s, raising questions about the possible impacts of military build-ups in the Gulf region, which includes both Iran and Iraq alongside the Arab Gulf states," states a 'fact sheet' compiled by Carina Solmirano and Pieter D. Wezeman.

Since transparency is poor in most of the Gulf region, the SIPRI fact sheet combines data on known military spending and recent and planned arms imports in the Gulf states: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The importance of the SIPRI paper lies in the fact that assessments of military developments in the Gulf states are complicated by very low levels of public transparency. It brings together SIPRI data on the Gulf states' military expenditure and on arms transfers to the region, taken from the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database and the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database.

The paper notes that recent increases in military spending and arms procurement by the eight states bordering the Gulf -- Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE -- have revived widespread discussion about the possible impacts of military build-ups in the region.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE stand out for their high levels of spending and arms imports, yet almost all the Gulf states devote a larger share of their gross domestic product (GDP) to military spending than the global average.

However, the available data on the Gulf states' military expenditure is highly uncertain. In many cases, notably Bahrain and Iran, not all military expenditure appears in the official figures; while in others, particularly Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, states do not report their military spending separately from their broader spending on security, including internal security.

It is also unclear whether some arms imports are paid for directly from oil revenues and thus do not appear in government accounts. In the case of Iraq, only budget figures are available, and actual expenditure may vary significantly, notes the paper.

"The patchiness of the data makes it hard to describe regional trends in military spending. However, Saudi Arabia is clearly the biggest spender, followed by the UAE and Iran. Iraq's military budget shrank by almost 30 per cent between 2008 and 2009. Almost all the Gulf states consistently spend a greater share of their GDP on the military than the global average. Indeed, in the period 2000-2008, Oman and Saudi Arabia spent more of their GDP on the military than any other country for which data is available," authors of fact sheet, Solmirano and Wezeman say.

The Gulf states accounted for 10 per cent of imports of major conventional weapons in the years between 2005 and 2009. Since arms production capabilities in the region are limited, almost all procurements of major weapons were imports.

The weapons were supplied by at least 30 countries. The largest suppliers were the United States, France, Russia, the Britain and China. Russian and Chinese exports went mainly to Iran, which received no major arms from the USA or from most European states.

The report notes that the pattern of imports to the region has changed over time. While the UAE accounted for 57 per cent of the volume of imports of major conventional weapons over the period 2005-2009 and Saudi Arabia for only 10 per cent, over the longer period 1990-2009 Saudi Arabia was the largest importer in the Gulf region.

While advising caution, the fact sheet lists most significant transfers of major conventional weapons to the Gulf states since 2005.


The volume of arms imported by the UAE has increased significantly in the past decade and the country is likely to remain a major arms importer in the coming years. Contracts for the delivery of 62 Mirage-2000-9 combat aircraft from France and 80 F-16E combat aircraft from the USA were completed in 2005-2008. In 2008-2009, 30 AH-64D combat helicopters were delivered from the USA.

Contracts being implemented include the delivery from the USA of 4 Patriot surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, 60 UH-60M armed transport helicopters, and 12 C-130J-30 and 6 C-17 transport aircraft; from France of 3 A-330 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft and 6 Baynunah corvettes; from Russia of up to 50 Pantsyr-S1 air defence systems; and from Italy of 2 Falaj-2 corvettes and 1 Abu Dhabi frigate.

The UAE's arms procurement plans include 3 Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems and 16 CH-47F transport helicopters from the USA; 60 combat aircraft from France or the USA; 48 M-346 advanced trainer aircraft and another 2 Falaj-2 corvettes and 1 Abu Dhabi frigate from Italy; and 3 airborne early warning aircraft, which several countries are competing to supply.


The volume of major arms imported by Saudi Arabia has been relatively low in the past decade compared with its imports in the 1990s. However, signed contracts and known procurement plans indicate that Saudi Arabia’s arms imports are set to increase significantly once again.

Contracts being implemented include the delivery of 72 Typhoon combat aircraft and probably Storm Shadow long-range air-to-surface missiles from the UK, as part of a major upgrade of Tornado combat aircraft; 12 AH-64D combat helicopters, 35 UH-60L transport helicopters, about 373 M-1A2S tanks, and new engines to upgrade 70 F-15S combat aircraft from the USA; 724 Piranha/LAV armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from Canada; and 6 A-330 MRTT tanker/transport aircraft from France. (End)

*This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News, contact:
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