STOCKHOLM: With the Airshow China 2010 opening next week in Zhuhai— where advanced combat aircraft will be showcased to potential buyers—and with Saudi Arabia, India and Brazil all planning major acquisitions of combat aircraft, a new SIPRI report released today says that combat aircraft account for one-third of worldwide transfers of major weapons in the past five years.
Combat aircraft give a potential for sudden, long-range attacks and can therefore cause instability. The recent availability of long-range precision missiles and bombs is increasing these attack capabilities.
Siemon Wezeman, Senior Fellow with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme and author of the study, says ‘While combat aircraft are often presented as one of the most important weapons needed for defence, these same aircraft give countries possessing them the potential to easily and with little warning strike deep into neighboring countries.
Acquisitions of combat aircraft thus clearly can have a major destabilizing effect on regions, as reactions to acquisitions in several regions show.’
India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel, the largest importers of combat aircraft for the period 2005–2009, as well as many other importers of combat aircraft lie in regions of serious international tensions.
‘Another dimension to be aware of is that seven of the eight states with nuclear weapons include combat aircraft among the systems for delivering these weapons, something not often discussed when exporting countries present sales of combat aircraft as major business opportunities’ states Wezeman.
An expensive investment
Combat aircraft are expensive weapons. Advanced combat aircraft cost $30 million each or more. Producers promote sales because they lead to substantial income and employment.
However, the acquisition and use of combat aircraft places a heavy burden on military budgets and the decision to acquire them will shape the direction of defence policy and doctrine for many years.
Key suppliers and recipients
Russia and the USA are by far the largest suppliers of combat aircraft (and, indeed, of all major conventional weapons). Between them they account for two-thirds of all combat aircraft delivered in the period 2005–2009. India, the UAE and Israel are by far the largest recipients of combat aircraft. Together, these three countries accounted for almost onethird of all imports of combat aircraft between 2005 and 2009.
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