New data shows Britain’s Royal Air Force trained Saudi personnel in 2019 on fighter jets used to bomb civilians in Yemen – a country on the brink of famine – while UK soldiers coached other forces in the Saudi-led coalition at nearly a dozen army bases in Britain.
Hundreds of Saudi military personnel received training at Royal Air Force (RAF) bases in the UK in 2019 – the same year a court banned new exports of British-made weapons to Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns in the Yemen war.
Data obtained by Declassified UK from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) shows that 310 Saudis trained at six RAF sites in England and Wales last year. Some training for Saudi pilots is still under way, with courses lasting up to four years.
The data shows that 90 Saudis received “Typhoon training” at RAF Coningsby air base in Lincolnshire, eastern England, during 2019. The MOD refused to clarify how many of the 90 were pilots or ground crew.
Saudi Arabia’s fleet of 72 Typhoon fighter jets – made by British arms giant BAE Systems in a deal worth £20-billion – have played the central role in aerial bombardments in Yemen which have involved repeated attacks on food supplies.
Yemen endured more than a thousand airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, directed against the country’s Houthi movement last year, resulting in 785 civilian casualties, including 77 child fatalities, according to the Yemen Data Project.
The UN’s World Food Programme says 20 million people in Yemen are at risk of starvation, and 360,000 children under the age of five are suffering from “severe acute malnutrition”. Declassified can also reveal that 180 Saudi personnel were trained at RAF Cosford’s Defence College of Technical Training in Shropshire, western England, last year.
The MOD refused to specify which courses the Saudis received at Cosford, but it is known that they have previously attended aerosystems engineering courses for the Tornado fighter jet, which Saudi pilots also use to bomb Yemen.