Oman is an absolute monarchy and a major UK arms customer.

Last updated 27 September 2020

Oman is a gulf state ruled by an absolute monarchy, where the Sultan is also the Prime Minister of the government and the Minister of Defence, and has authority and power over the judicial and legal systems.

In early 2011, protests in Oman formed part of the Arab Uprising. Unlike those in other countries, the protests called for political reform rather than the bringing-down of the regime. Many protests were dispersed by force, using tear gas and rubber bullets.

Omani military spending and UK arms supplies

Oman spent 8.8% of its GDP on the military in 2019, according to the the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the highest rate in the world. SIPRI  lists Oman as the world’s 23rd largest importer of weapons from 2015 to 2019. Its main suppliers in that period were the UK (45%), the US (13%) and Norway (12%).

Unsurprisingly, Oman is listed as one of the UK government’s “priority markets” for arms sales. The UK’s arms export unit has stated “Oman is a key defence partner of the UK; the relationship extends back many years. A large percentage of the Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) equipment is British.” (DSO, Oman brochure, 2011).

The biggest UK arms deal in recent years was the 2012 deal for 12 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, worth £2.5 billion. The planes were delivered in 2017-18. Other UK arms exports over the past 20 years have included Piranha armoured vehicles, Challenger-2 tanks, Super Lynx helicopters, and Khareef Class corvettes (SIPRI arms transfer database).

The UK also has a long-term presence training the Omani military. In 2016, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that this programme would be increased from an annual average of 34 “short term training teams” to 45.

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