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Court orders review of Saudi defence exports

The UK Court of Appeal ruled on Thursday that the export of arms from Britain to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen was unlawful due to the risk they might be used in violation of human rights. Handing down the decision, Judge Terence Etherton said that the government, in granting export licences for Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, had made “no concluded assessments of whether the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law in the past, during the Yemen conflict.”

Speaking in parliament, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said that he disagreed with the judgement and would seek permission to appeal, insisting that international humanitarian law considerations was at the heart of the decision-making process without exception. Fox nevertheless conceded that, while that appeal is sort, the government will not grant any new licenses for export to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners which might be used in the conflict. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was unequivocal in reply, saying that “UK advice, assistance and arms supplies to Saudi’s war in Yemen is a moral stain on our country” and that “Arms sales to Saudi must stop now.”

Saudi Arabia is the UK’s single biggest defence export customer and the ongoing negotiation to confirm a multi-billion-pound deal for 48 new BAE Systems-supplied Typhoon combat jets is a critical component in the UK’s plan to ensure the on-shore sustainment of industrial infrastructure critical to national security. The impact on progress on that deal is yet to be fully understood. 

UTC and Raytheon to merge

United Technologies Corporation (UTC) and Raytheon have announced a proposal to merge and form the world's second largest aerospace and defence company (behind Boeing). The $120bn business that will emerge is a significant moment in the global consolidation in the defence and aerospace sectors and will bring together some of the biggest brands in the marketplace, including Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace. The decision reflects an anticipation of slowing US defence spending, with the Pentagon is also demanding better value from defence contractors. As a major supplier to companies such as Airbus and Boeing, they too are looking to extract more competitive terms from their suppliers. This deal, will be subject to scrutiny from US competition regulators who will determine if it is allowed to proceed.

Eurofighter announces development plan for Typhoon

Eurofighter, the consortium of major aerospace companies from the four Typhoon partner nations, used the occasion of the Paris Air Show this week to unveil their long-term capability development plan for the aircraft. The Long-Term Evolution plan will explore technology areas including mission system architecture, defensive aids, the human-machine interface, operational flexibility and engine performance. The intention is to maintain and extend Typhoon’s ability to operate in the future combat environment, potentially out to 2050. The Royal Air Force currently envisages maintaining Typhoon as a frontline combat air capability up to 2040, with the Tempest programme already in its initial stages to consider Typhoon’s long-term replacement.  

European leaders unveil next-generation fighter

The Paris Air Show was also the setting for the unveiling of a mocked-up pan-European Future Combat Air System. Alongside the defence ministers of Germany and Spain, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the concept that they intend to become Europe’s primary combat air capability to replace both France’s Rafale and the Typhoon of Germany and Spain. The programme is currently seen as a rival to the UK-led Tempest programme.

As well as unveiling Spain as the third formal partner in the programme, Dassault and Airbus D&S also signed a collaboration agreement to produce a flyable demonstrator in 2026. That will mean nations committing far larger sums to the programme than has been in play so far. Ensuring industrial work fair share will be key as the program progresses. Florence Parly, French Armed Forces minister said the signing represented "…concrete proof that Europe is able to anticipate the great strategic challenges of tomorrow.”

MOD launch ‘Intelligent Warship’ competition 

The MOD’s Defence and Security Accelerator has launched a new programme seeking proposals for novel concepts aimed at integrating intelligent systems into future warships. £1m has been allocated to fund phase one proposals, which will seek to mature innovative solutions for warships delivered beyond 2040, specifically those focused on automation, artificial intelligence and human-machine interfaces.

The deadline for phase one submissions are required by 23 July and businesses interested in making a proposal can do so here. For the successful bidders, potential further phases are then expected to follow as the technology matures.


MOD Procurement with SMEs: Asked what MOD has spent on SMEs in (a) the UK, (b) each region of the UK and (c) each constituent part of the UK in last 12 months, Defence Procurement Minister Stuart Andrew replied that: 

Each year, the Cabinet Office publishes information on central government spend with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The latest publication, 2017-2018, can be accessed at:

This includes overall Ministry of Defence (MOD) expenditure with SMEs. Statistics on MOD expenditure, broken down by region is published in Tables 4 and 5 of the MOD regional expenditure with UK industry and supported employment 2017-18 bulletin, which can be found at the link below:

Data for 2018-19 will be published in January 2020.

The MOD does not collate detailed information about spend on individual companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, in each region or constituent part of the UK.

Cyber Security for SMEs: Asked what responsibility MOD has for protecting SMEs from cyber threats, Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster replied that:

The Ministry of Defence is not directly responsible for protecting Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) from cyber threats. We do take an interest in their security status and assess their capabilities as part of the contracting process. This is done as part of the Defence Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP), which provides communications and awareness products and activities on cyber security to support Defence and its supply chain.

EU Defence Initiatives: Asked whether MOD is currently involved in the negotiations over the Permanent Structured Cooperation and the European Defence Fund; if so, which government department is leading on those negotiations; and (1) when, (2) where, and (3) with whom, the last meeting was held, Defence Minister for the Lords, Earl Howe replied that:

As a full EU Member State, the UK continues to participate in meetings and discussions regarding EU defence initiatives including Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and the European Defence Fund (EDF).

The UK has not joined PESCO but recognises its potential to support increased defence investment in Europe and the development of capabilities that contribute to NATO. As a non-participating Member State the UK has no voting rights on PESCO matters, but we do contribute to discussions where appropriate. Any future UK participation in PESCO projects will be subject to the rules governing third country access that are still being negotiated by PESCO Participating Member States.

The Political Declaration provides the option for the UK to participate in capability projects through the EDF, subject to conditions in Union Law. The UK has contributed to discussions about the draft EDF Regulations. Any UK participation in EDF projects would need to be aligned with our requirements and represent value for money.

EU Defence Ministers last discussed PESCO and the EDF at the May Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) in Brussels.

The Ministry of Defence is the Government department with responsibility for EDF and PESCO matters.


Rolls-Royce buys Siemens’ electric plane arm (The Manufacturer)

Airbus pushes MRTT aircraft as test bed for future aerial combat network (Defense News)

MBDA Unveils Its Vision of Future Air Systems (MBDA)

Thales launch connected fighter jet concept (Thales)

BAE Systems joins Boeing’s MQ-25 industry team (BAE Systems)

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