The UK government admits that Saudi Arabia has used UK weapons, made by companies around the UK, in its attacks on Yemen.
13 July 2023
UK weapons have played a central role in the war in Yemen. The UK government admits that the Saudi-led coalition has attacked the country using weapons made by companies around the UK, representing billions of pounds of arms sales.
Over half of Saudi Arabia’s combat aircraft used for the bombing raids are UK-supplied.
UK-made equipment used includes
Typhoon and Tornado aircraft,
Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles.
Given this central role of UK weapons, they will certainly have played a part in the hundreds of cases of attacks on civilian targets committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Researchers on the grounds have discovered weapons fragments that demonstrate the use of UK-made weapons in attacks on civilian targets..
Given that the UK has a long history of defence exports to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, and considering the evidence we have heard, it seems inevitable that any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the coalition have involved arms supplied from the UK.
– House of Commons, Business, Innovation and Skills and International Development Committees, September 2016
Throughout the bombing, further Typhoon aircraft continued to be delivered to Saudi Arabia from BAE’s Warton site. Meanwhile, BAE and the UK government have been pushing hard for a new contract.
Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, manufactured by BAE Systems, have been central to the attacks. The government has confirmed that they have been deployed on combat missions in Yemen. Throughout the bombing, further Typhoon aircraft continued to be delivered to Saudi Arabia from BAE's Warton site. Meanwhile, BAE and the UK government are pushing hard for a new contract.
Bombs and missiles
The government has also admitted that UK-supplied precision-guided weapons have been used in Yemen:
Raytheon‘s Paveway IV bombs: In 2014, Raytheon UK secured its first export contract for the Paveway IV – estimated at £150 million ($247 million), for the sale of 2,400 bombs to Saudi Arabia. In 2017, an MOD official revealed that the UK has trained Saudi air force personnel in the use of the Paveway IV.
MBDA‘s PGM500 bombs and Brimstone and Storm Shadow missiles, and
In addition, “Hakim” A series precision guided munition (PGM), a 500-pound rocket-assisted bomb manufactured by GEC-Marconi Dynamics (which was subsequently acquired by BAE Systems), have been used in Yemen. The UK delivered 1,750 Hakim munitions to the UAE between 1989 and 1998, according to SIPRI.
The government confirmed in March 2016 that it had accelerated delivery of Paveway precision-guided bombs in response to Saudi requests.
In total, the UK has licenced just over £2 billion worth of bombs, air-to-surface missiles, and related components and equipment to Saudi Arabia since the coalition bombing campaign began. In addition, an open licence for Saudi Arabia, that included bombs and air-to-surface missiles, was granted in August 2014, which would have been valid until August 2019. It is not possible to know how much equipment was actually exported using this licence. It is notable that there was a major surge in single licences for these munitions starting in August 2020, shortly after the government’s decision to resume issuing new export licences.
In December 2016, the UK government finally admitted that UK-made cluster bombs had also been deployed in the conflict.
Stop UK weapon use in Yemen
"We found this piece of shrapnel ... the markings show that the bomb was made in the UK"
UK-made weapons used in attacks on civilian targets
In most of the hundreds of cases of attacks on civilian targets committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, we don’t know exactly which planes were involved, which bombs or missiles were used, or even which country in the coalition committed the atrocity. But in some cases, researchers on the grounds have discovered weapons fragments that can be definitely or probably identified as coming from particular types of bomb or missile.
Mwatana’s 2019 report “Day of Judgement: the role of the US and Europe in civilian death, destruction, and trauma in Yemen”, details five attacks on civilian targets where weapons fragments were found that could be linked to UK-made weapons.
An interactive “Time Map” produced by Forensic Architecture applies graphic and cartographic techniques to information obtained from extensive field research, open-source investigation, and legal analysis, to create an interactive tool that exposes the patterns of documented airstrikes in Yemen and the contribution of the European arms trade to it as well as well as the governments’ and companies’ awareness of the crimes committed by the coalition in Yemen since March 2015.
See the evidence
A report and an interactive time map showing the evidence of use of arms from the UK and other countries in attacks on civilians in Yemen
8 and 10 January, 2016, Attack on community college
On January 8 and 10, 2016, Saudi/UAE-led Coalition forces attacked a community college in the village of Kouhaza in Bilad Ar-Rus District, Sana’a Governorate.
The attacks completely destroyed a warehouse in the college compound and partially destroyed the remaining buildings, including the student dormitories. The community college was not located near any potential military targets, according to Ali Al-Muzalim, a college security guard who was present during the attack. Mwatana found no evidence to suggest that the college compound was being used for military purposes.
At least one of the bombs used in the attacks was a UK-made Hakim A series precision-guided munition, made by GEC-Marconi Dynamics (later part of BAE).
The bomb was most likely dropped by a United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force plane – either the Dassault Mirage 2000-9 or F-16E/F “Desert Falcon” fighter.
6 January 2016, Attack on Warehouse
At about 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 6, 2016, two Saudi/UAE-led Coalition bombs struck Al-Muqbeli Warehouse in Kilo 7, Hudaydah Governorate, setting the warehouse on fire.
All the goods stored in the warehouse – including approximately 30,000 car parts – were destroyed in the attack and ensuing fire. Mwatana found no evidence to suggest that Al-Muqbeli Warehouse was storing military goods or otherwise being used for military purposes.
Weapons experts identified fragments at the site of the attack as being parts of a Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, manufactured by Raytheon UK.
The bomb was thus likely dropped by a Saudi plane.
6 January 2016, Bombing of factory
In the very early hours of Wednesday, January 6, 2016 – less than an hour after attacking nearby Al-Muqbeli Warehouse – Saudi/UAE-led Coalition fighter jets dropped four bombs on Derhim Industrial Factory near Al-Maraw’a, Hudaydah Governorate, setting the factory on fire.
Mwatana found no evidence to suggest that Derhim Factory was producing military goods or otherwise being used for military purposes, or that there were any military targets in or near the factory at the time of the attack.
Weapons fragments found on the site contained markings linking them to Raytheon, probably part of a Paveway-IV laser-guided bomb, likely dropped by a Saudi plane.
12 September 2016, Bombing of Factory complex
Just after midnight on Monday, September 12, 2016, the Saudi/UAE-led Coalition dropped four bombs on Al-Senidar Factory Complex in Bani Al-Harith District, Amanat Al- Asimah Governorate.
Within about five minutes, the bombs struck three different factories in the complex and damaged at least one house nearby. Researchers and witnesses did not identify any military targets in or near the complex at the time of the attack, nor did the UN Panel of Experts, who also investigated the attack.
Mwatana researchers recovered a large remnant of a UK-made Paveway IV bomb at the site of the attack, likely dropped by a Saudi plane.
23 September 2015, Bombing of Ceramics factory
On the morning of Wednesday, September 23, 2015, four Saudi/UAE-led Coalition bombs struck the Radfan Ceramics Factory in the Matna area of Bani Matar District, Sana’a Governorate.
In addition to killing one civilian and injuring two – including a child – the attack destroyed the factory and, with it, the livelihoods of 700 workers. Mwatana found no evidence to suggest that the Radfan Ceramics Factory was producing military goods or otherwise being used for military purposes, or that there were any military targets in or near the factory at the time of the attack.
After analysing photographs of weapons remnants found at the site of the attack, arms experts concluded that at least one of the bombs used was a UK-made “Hakim” A series precision guided munition (PGM) manufactured by GEC-Marconi Dynamics, most likely dropped by a UAE plane.
UK-made cluster bombs, provided to Saudi Arabia in the late 1980s, have also been used in Yemen. Cluster bombs pose particular risks to civilians because they release many small bomblets over a wide area. Unexploded bomblets can cause injury and death long after a conflict has ended.
Air raids have frequently targeted civilian gatherings such as weddings and busy market places where there was no military target nearby, often with extremely deadly consequences. Many of these air raids appear to be clear violations of IHL.