Saudi Arabia Typhoon combat aircraft, viewed from the front

BAE & Saudi Arabia

BAE Systems is a key partner of the Saudi Arabia’s military. It has supplied vast amounts of weaponry including over 200 combat aircraft. It also has thousands of employees in Saudi Arabia that make the country’s military operations possible. BAE’s weaponry and support are a vital part of Saudi Arabia’s devastating attacks on Yemen.

Last updated 27 March 2024

Saudi Arabia is crucial to BAE. It is the company’s third-largest market after the US and UK.

The company and its forerunners have been supplying combat aircraft to Saudi Arabia since the 1960s. Its deals with Saudi Arabia have been credited with rescuing the company from near bankruptcy following losses on its civil aviation side in the early 1990s.

In March 2015, a Saudi Arabia-led coalition commenced a military campaign in Yemen, targeting Houthis and allied rebel groups. The attacks involved substantial numbers of air strikes against a wide variety of targets and there is overwhelming evidence of repeated breaches of international humanitarian law.

“for people in Saudi Arabia and Yemen it is impossible to separate the people who sell the weapon from the ones that use them.”

Arabian activist Ameen Nemer at the 2019 BAE AGM

The UK government has confirmed the use of BAE Tornado and Typhoon aircraft in the conflict. Despite this, BAE completed the delivery of the 72 Typhoons that had been ordered and, in March 2018, the UK and Saudi Arabia signed a Memorandum of Intent for the sale of 48 more. However, despite BAE’s best efforts, this deal appears to be stalled.

BAE supplies a wide range of equipment to Saudi Arabia in addition to combat aircraft. In 2011, Saudi armoured vehicles, manufactured by BAE, were deployed to Bahrain as part of the efforts to crush pro-democracy protests. BAE also maintains a staff of 6,500 people in Saudi Arabia, tasked with supporting the operational capabilities of the Saudi armed forces.

“In Saudi Arabia, the business provides operational capability support to the country’s air and naval forces through UK/Saudi government-to-government programmes.”

BAE Systems, Annual Report 2019

Key statistics

£2.6 billion

BAE sales to Saudi Arabia in 2023

BAE Annual Report

Arms deals

(Sourced from BAE Annual Reports)

BAE has two main programmes with Saudi Arabia that provide “operational capability support to the country’s air and naval forces”. These are:

Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme (SBDCP)

In the late 2000s, the massive Al Yamamah arms deals of the 1980s morphed into the Saudi British Defence Co-operation Programme. BAE remained the prime contractor. The programme has provided a wide range of equipment and support:

  •  Tornado combat aircraft, support and upgrades
  •  trainer aircraft (including Hawk aircraft) and support
  • Naval minehunter mid-life update
  • Storm Shadow cruise missiles (manufactured by MBDA)
  • “manpower, logistics and training”

Salam Typhoon project

This is a separate project for the supply of Typhoon combat aircraft and the support programme for them. The deal for 72 aircraft was signed in 2007 and the last of the Typhoons was delivered in 2017. The support contracts continue.

Key contracts and deliveries


  • 1st 4 Hawk training aircraft from the 2015 contract supplied to the Saudi military. The aircraft were assembled in Saudi Arabia.


  • Memorandum of Intent signed by the UK and Saudi Arabia for the supply of a further 48 Typhoon combat aircraft.
  • Agreement reached for BAE to continue to provide Typhoon support services to the Royal Saudi Air Force (a £3.2 billion contract up to 2022).
  • 3rd and final Minehunter handed-over to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces following the mid-life update programme.


  • Final 4 of the 72 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Final 8 of the 22 Hawk aircraft delivered (2012 contract).
  • “Production has completed”  on the upgrade of M113 armoured vehicles for the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Carried out by FNSS, BAE’s “land systems joint venture based in Turkey”.
  • SBDCP contractual agreement for support services for a further 5 years, to the end of 2021.


  • 11 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • 14 Hawk aircraft delivered (2012 contract).
  • 2nd Minehunter handed-over to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces following the mid-life update programme.
  • BAE “celebrated 50 years in Saudi Arabia”.


  • 12 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Contract agreed for further 22 Hawk aircraft and associated equipment.


  • 11 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Agreement reached between BAE And the Saudi Arabian government over price escalation on the Salam Typhoon programme.


  • 10 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Five year follow-on Typhoon support programme agreed (£1.8bn contract).
  • Contract agreed for Tornado aircraft upgrades and weapons (£1.5bn contract).
  • 1st Minehunter handed-over to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces following the mid-life update programme.


  • No Typhoon aircraft delivered (suspended while Typhoon price escalation negotiations took place).
  • Two six-month extensions to the Typhoon support programme agreed.
  • Tornado combat aircraft upgrade completed (81 aircraft).
  • Delivery of Storm Shadow cruise missiles reported as progressing according to schedule.
  • Contract agreed for aircrew training including the supply of 22 Hawk training aircraft and 55 PC-21 Pilatus training aircraft (£1.6bn).
  • SBDCP agreement for support services to the end of 2016 (£3.4bn).
  • Contract to upgrade 70 F-15 combat aircraft with BAE’s Digital Electronic Warfare System (£200m).


  • 6 Typhoon aircraft delivered.


  • 10 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Delivery completed of 200 Tactica armoured vehicles for the Saudi Arabian National Guard.


  • 1st 8 Typhoon aircraft delivered.
  • Three year contract for Typhoon support agreed.
  • Tactica armoured vehicle deliveries start.


  • Contract for 72 Typhoon aircraft agreed.

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