Dutch missile technology to Saudi Arabia?

Germany “supports the supply of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia,” concluded Left Party Bundestag member Jan van Aken in a reaction to the deliverances of components for Tornado and Eurofighter combat aircraft, parts of howitzer and mortar ammunition, and armoured transport vehicles to the Saudi kingdom. The exports were authorized as part of joint projects to which Germany committed itself. According to the German government, this was export to other European countries, not to Saudi-Arabia. The same logic, although on a smaller scale of export, is followed by the Dutch government when for example justifying the export of Sea Sparrow missile components.

Saudi Arabia is the notorious sponsor and source of inspiration for much of Islamic violence in the wider Middle East, staging military and financial interventions in order to create stronger salafist influence. Internally, the country has a repressive policy against women and minorities which is amongst the worst in the world. But Saudi Arabia is also spending billions of its oil dollars on arms, making it the third or fourth military spender in the world (depending on calculation method used).

Last week Riyadh declared that the building of four naval vessels by Lockheed Martin in the US is too expensive – between 3 and 4 billion US$ each – and goes too slow (it can take up to seven years). The statement can be seen as part of the negotiations over price and schedule of the ships. The Saudi acquisition is part of a US$ 20 billion programme to refresh the ageing U.S.-built Saudi fleet operating in the Persian Gulf, according to a State Department notification issued in October. Shortly after the Saudi complaint Lockheed could rescedule and build quicker.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA ) 532 Raytheon Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) will be sold to the Saudi’s as part of the programme. Here the involvement of Netherlands starts. The country participates in the NATO Sea Sparrow Consortium since the beginning e.g. through Fokker and Thales. Most of the Sea Sparrow project concerns sea launched missiles but a 2012 arms fair showed Fokker and Thales involvement in some land based Sea Sparrows. The last two Sea Sparrow contracts, reported on the website of the US Ministry of Defense, the mentioned the Dutch as producers. October 30, 2015 a contract was issued valued at € 15.3 million, of which 60 percent by the the Sea Sparrow Consortium. An April 2, 2015 contract for Sea Sparrow Block 2 missile engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) requirements was issued for $517,300,000 (€ 474.7m). The Netherlands will pay for 5 percent of this contract and perform 3 percent of the work. The result in real figures is € 14 million. Research institute TNO also played a role in the work on the missile and developped the system which provide the data to optimise raid annihilation.

The Sea Sparrow sales can also be found in the monthly arms export reports by the Dutch government. In 2014 (the latest published) three exports to Denmark of Sea Sparrow components are reported, one to the United Arab Emirates, and one to the VS. Together the exports are valued at € 8.1 million. But the rather vague description ’technology for guided missiles’ [Technologie voor geleide raketten] is also used in the reports so the conclusion it is likely many more are under-reported but took place.

The Fokker Special Products website makes no secret of Sea Sparrows technology production. The Supplier Quality Assurance Requirements Fokker has signed – regarding selling Sea Sparrow components – states: “Full traceability of the supply chain shall be guaranteed and be proven by the paperwork.” So it can be known in which missiles for which destination the components are assembled. It enables the Dutch government to control if sales have the destination Saudi Arabia. But such action is not to be expected, because it is antagonising the US and our ally in Riyadh. A new sale of weapon components to Saudi Arabia is in the making. And will the Netherlands follow the German example where words are nice but policy wrong. Or will it be stopped?


Martin Broek 28/01/2016







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