Qatar’s defense minister signed a letter of intent on Sunday to purchase 24 Typhoon jets from British defense group BAE Systems in a deal likely to be worth more than £2bn.

UK defence secretary Michael Fallon said:

This will be the first major defence contract with Qatar, one of the UK’s strategic partners.

The deal with Qatar comes at a difficult time for the Arab state.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain severed all diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorist groups. All four Gulf states have cut air and sea links with the country.

With tension across the region high, military spending is on the up.

The UK has already supplied 72 aircraft to Saudi Arabia and 18 to Oman.

Last year, a deal was struck with Kuwait to provide the country with 28 Typhoons.

UK arms manufacturers have exported almost £5bn worth of weapons to repressive regimes since British prime minister Theresa May won the general election, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT).

Verdict takes a look at where the UK, the second-largest arms exporter in the world, is selling the most weapons.

Saudi Arabia

Almost two-thirds of UK arms exports go to the Middle East, according to the Department for International Trade.

Across the region, Saudi Arabia buys the greatest number of weapons from the UK.

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In July, six months after a Saudi airstrike hit a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital Sana’a killing 140 people, the British government approved £283m  worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

UK-made cluster bombs sold to Saudi Arabia throughout the 1980s were used by Saudi forces in civilian areas of Yemen as recently as 2016.


Russia is also a regular recipient of UK arms. Since 2008, Britain has sold more than £400m worth of weapons to the world’s largest country.


The UK government supports opposition groups seeking to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

It has exported parts for bullet-proof vehicles and underwater listening devices, Reuters reported in 2013.

In 2014, the then foreign secretary William Hague told Parliament that UK-produced chemicals exported to Syria in the 1980s may have made it possible for Assad’s regime to use nerve gas.

“We judge it likely that these chemical exports by UK companies were subsequently used by Syria in their programmes to produce nerve agents, including Sarin,” he said at the time.


Since 2011, UK exports of small arms, ammunition and armoured vehicles to Qatar increased from £2.3m to £33.4m, according to figures compiled by the CAAT.

UK exports include assault rifles and components for machine guns. In 2013, the Qatari Amiri Guard ordered more than £3m worth of British-made Heckler and Koch assault rifles.


In March 2015, the then British prime minister David Cameron approved a £40m licence for UK produced armoured vehicles to Egypt.

Egypt “has locked up journalists, tortured opponents and clamped down on all dissent. The UK should be calling out for change, not rolling out the red carpet and arming his [Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s] regime.” said Andrew Smith from the CAAT at the time.

Egypt’s prime minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been labelled by many in the international community as a dictator.