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Gulf Cooperation Council arms race: Who sells to whom

A close look at the recent arms agreements made by the different members of the Arab Gulf grouping.

Air forces

The global trade in weapons is booming, with sales to the Middle East surging.

Amid regional instability, an arms race is under way among Arab Gulf countries. The members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait - have spent billions of dollars on weapons this year alone.

Here's a look at the recent deals made.

Saudi Arabia 

So far in 2018, Saudi Arabia has allocated over $3bn to arms deals.

  • Spain: On April 12, it was reported that Spain and Saudi Arabia are due to finalise a $2bn arms deal for the purchase of warships, Spanish defence ministry said. Spanish state-owned shipbuilder Navantia will sell five small warships to the kingdom. The deal will include the Spanish army training military personnel in Saudi Arabia and building a naval construction centre there. 
  • UK: On March 9, a memorandum of intent was signed between both countries aiming to finalise discussions for the purchase of 49 Typhoon aircraft.
  • US: On April 8, the state department approved a possible sale of $1.31bn of self-propelled Howitzer systems and conversion equipment to Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon reported.
  • US: On March 22, the state department said it had approved a possible sale of an estimated $670m in anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia, just hours after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pentagon leaders.
  • US: On the same date, the state department approved a possible sale of $300m in military spare parts and a $106.8m contract for helicopter maintenance. "This proposed sale will support US foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country," the statement read.
  • US: On January 18, the US government approved a $500m sale of missile system support services to Saudi Arabia.


Qatar has allocated over $490m to arms deals in 2018. 

  • US: On March 8, the US government approved a possible sale to Qatar of equipment and support to upgrade the Qatari Emiri Air Force's Air Operations Center at an estimated cost of $197m. 
  • US: On March 9, the US approved a possible military sale to Qatar of Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems II guidance sections at an estimated cost of $300m.


So far in 2018, Kuwait has allocated over $300m to arms deals.

  • US: On February 21, the state department approved a possible foreign military sale to Kuwait of King Air 350ER Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance aircraft at an estimated cost of $259m.
  • US: On February 20, the state department approved a possible sale of patrol boats at an estimated cost of $100m. 

United Arab Emirates 

The United Arab Emirates has allocated more than $200m for arms purchases in 2018. 

  • US: On March 8, the US approved the possible sale to the UAE of 300 AIM-Sidewinder Block II missiles, 40 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Captive Air Training Missiles and 30 tactical guidance units at an estimated cost of $270.4m.


Oman has allocated more than $60m for buying weapons in 2018. 

  • US: On January 5, Oman requested items and services to support an incremental operational flight profile, as well as an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) surveillance system and secure communications equipment at an estimated cost of $62m.


Bahrain has not reported any arms purchases in 2018.

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