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.
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 Understanding for 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