After a low in 2016 and 2017, sales of war material resumed last year. As much as the controversies, especially concerning sales in Saudi Arabia. The main customer by far is Germany
Swiss exports of war material are doing well. They amounted to CHF 509 million last year. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) does not consider that at this stage we can speak of a reversal of the trend.
Arms sales fell to a low of 411.9 million in 2016 after peaking at 872.7 million in 2011. Last year, exports increased by $63 million compared to 2017. But the new statistics now also include repairs and temporary exports.
According to the head of the Arms Control Policy Sector, Simon Plüss, who spoke to the press on Tuesday, it is not possible to say how much of the increase is actually linked to the new calculation bases. The next few years will show a trend. “The situation in the defence industry has improved but remains tense.”
The top 5 export countries are Germany (118 million), followed by Denmark (73.5 million), the United States (51.9 million), Romania (22.5 million) and Italy (19.6 million). Switzerland also sold war material to Pakistan (10.9 million), the United Arab Emirates (9.8 million), Oman (6.3 million) and Bahrain (3 million).
To a lesser extent, arms were also exported to Saudi Arabia (2.2 million), India (1.7 million), Kuwait and Qatar (both 183,000 francs), Turkey (96,000 francs), Israel (34,000 francs) and Jordan (11,000 francs).
Contested sales to Saudi Arabia
For Saudi Arabia, this mainly concerns fire control equipment (spare parts for anti-aircraft defence systems). These are exports allowed before the recent turn of the screw.
Sales to Riyadh are heavily criticized for Saudi involvement in the conflict in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Last year, Switzerland decided to stop supplying spare parts to Riyadh until further notice.
Since 2009, Berne no longer allowed exports of war material to Saudi Arabia, with the exception of spare parts, ammunition and firearms for private use. From 2016, applications for equipment with a high risk of use in Yemen are rejected.
Ammunition and armour
In 2018, 34 per cent of all deliveries were of ammunition and ammunition components for weapons of any calibre, broken down by equipment category. The main customers are Denmark, Germany and Austria. A quarter of sales (24.5%) concerned armoured vehicles, 10.4% of components for combat aircraft, 10.1% of weapons of all calibres and 6.8% of fire control equipment.
Shoulder and handguns make up the bulk of sales to India, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar. Other weapons of all calibers were of interest to Oman and Pakistan. The latter also received fire control equipment. This category represents the bulk of exports to Turkey. The United Arab Emirates mainly purchased ammunition, Bahrain aircraft and Israel vehicles.
Some 80% of exports were to countries that have joined the four international export control regimes for sensitive strategic goods, compared to 53% in 2017, SECO points out. The Secretariat of State also publishes statistics on specific military assets (disrupters, ballistic protection, night vision systems, simulators).
The total value of individual permits granted amounted to CHF 25 million, compared with CHF 71 million in 2017. This is a long way from the one billion mark of 2015. The decrease is due to the discontinuation of requests for training aircraft.
Countries of destination include Egypt, China, India, Israel, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab States. According to SECO, it is not possible to obtain information on the goods actually exported. The same export operation may appear several times in the statistics because the duration of permits is limited to two years.
Controls questioned by the Federal Audit Office
The State Secretariat has recently been dragged out of its ears by the Federal Audit Office on the quality of its audits. Last year, SECO visited Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Qatar, Lebanon, Lithuania, Pakistan and South Africa to check whether the declaration of non-export is being complied with.
Not all the evidence could be provided. On this basis, Switzerland has just stopped sales to Lebanon until further notice.