Spanish arms exports rebound after confinement and grow 37% | Spain

Launching of the fifth corvette built by Navantia for Saudi Arabia, on the 4th in San Fernando (Cádiz).
Launching of the fifth corvette built by Navantia for Saudi Arabia, on the 4th in San Fernando (Cádiz).Roman Ríos (EFE)

Spanish arms exports reached 1,633.9 million euros in the first half of 2021, with a growth of 37.3% compared to the same period last year, according to the report sent to Congress by the Secretary of State for Trade. The rebound in sales of military material after the 2020 confinement, which forced the paralysis of numerous deliveries, almost means recovering the levels of 2018 (1,705 million euros), although not yet those of 2019 (2,413 million), the year prior to the pandemic.

68.9% of Spanish arms exports were directed to NATO partners, a percentage that reaches 69.6% if the countries that belong to the EU but not to the Atlantic Alliance are added. The remaining 30.4% was distributed among 51 countries, with Australia standing out, which, with 269.9 million, was the third client of the Spanish military industry in this period, after France (310.2) and the United Kingdom (285.6 ). Australia received a supply vessel from the Navantia public shipyard. Most of the sales to France correspond to Airbus transport and inflight supply aircraft (301 million); while those of the United Kingdom include Ajax armored vehicles for the British Army, which are partially manufactured in Spain by General Dynamics-Santa Bárbara Sistemas (158.4).

Ammunition deliveries to Saudi Arabia (39.5 million), a country bogged down since 2015 in the Yemen war; and the authorization to export anti-riot equipment (350,000 euros) to the Cuban regime, which last July harshly repressed opposition demonstrations, are some of the most controversial operations. The main points of interest in the report are detailed below:

Ammunition for Saudi Arabia. After Australia, the largest customer of the Spanish military industry outside NATO and the EU is Riyadh, with 55.7 million between January and July. Surprisingly, the report does not include the sale of five corvettes to the Royal Saudi Navy for 1.813 million, despite the fact that the fifth and last Avante 2020 class ship, the Unayzah, was launched last day 4 at the Navantia shipyard in San Fernando (Cádiz). The moment the corvettes are delivered, and incorporated into the statistics, Riyadh will take the lead in the purchase of Spanish military material.

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It already is in the ammunition and explosive devices game. 48.3% of the 81.7 million exported by Spanish firms in this sector worldwide were for Riyadh (39.5 million). Sales include 31,508 155mm caliber rounds, 60,000 projection charges, 40,800 fuzes and 80,000 artillery nozzles. In theory, the Saudi government has promised not to use these weapons in Yemen. The second buyer of Spanish ammunition is Egypt, with 17.9 million. If the other Arab countries (Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Tunisia) are added, the percentage reaches 62.7% of the total.

Anti-riot gear for Cuba. The Government authorized the export of riot control equipment to Cuba for 350,000 euros in the first half of this year, before the violent repression of the demonstrations last July. The report does not explain whether the export of the police equipment was carried out later or it was decided to suspend the delivery due to the risk that it would be used to repress peaceful demonstrations. Between January and June of this year, Spain exported police material for 98,257 euros, 86.3% less than in the same period in 2020. The first buyer was Albania (with 78,948 euros, 80% of the total). Among the operations authorized but not yet executed, in addition to Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4.6 million), Togo (306,150) and Tunisia (111,000) stand out. Among the buyers of hunting weapons is Ukraine (1,044,853 euros).

Denials to Burkina Faso. The Government has vetoed the export of a total of 14.6 million hunting cartridges to Burkina Faso for 2.3 million due to risk of diversion to the black market. In this Sahelian country, Spanish journalists David Beriain and Roberto Fraile were murdered last April when they were making a documentary on poaching in natural parks. However, another sale of cartridges to the same country was authorized for 197,856 euros.

Aircraft for Mali. The Government approved the export of military aircraft to Mali for 41 million euros. This country, in which Spain has a contingent of more than 500 military personnel, has been governed since May by a Military Junta after the second coup in less than a year.

Sales to Israel. Spain exported defense material to Israel for 474,789 euros, while authorized operations amounted to 838,775. The material sold included naval equipment, fire control systems, ammunition and bombs. The largest authorized item (671,095 euros) corresponds to the section on bombs, rockets and missiles.

Arms for Gibraltar. For the first time, the British colony appears as a client of the Spanish military industry, with a small item of 7,175 euros. These are weapons with a caliber of less than 20 millimeters destined for armories or individuals.

Vets to Pakistan, Russia and China (including Hong Kong). Exports of dual-use material (civil and military) amounted to 164.4 million, with an increase of 160.5%. The first customer was Singapore, which bought material from hardware Y software for 43.3 million. 14 export operations were denied; Among them, one to Pakistan (20,000 euros), 11 to China (14.6 million) and two to Russia (531,164 euros), due to the EU sanctions. The export to Hong Kong of four thermal surveillance cameras for the Police, valued at 994,016 euros, was prohibited “due to the risk of use in the internal repression” of the democratic movement.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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