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Alabama, North Carolina, And Other States Move Billions In Weapons To Saudi, UAE

June 7, 2019

By Eric Woods

Translations: Русский

Individual U.S. states such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Arizona, and others have exported hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since the Saudi-led war in Yemen began. Altogether, per publicly available data released by the U.S. government, 11 states plus the District of Columbia have each exported over $100 million in weapons for Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Altogether, up to $6.8 billion in bombs, rocket launchers, machine guns and other weapons are mapped below using open source data provided by the U.S. government.

The top five states for these goods (excluding the District of Columbia’s $737 million in exports) are North Carolina, Arizona, Alabama, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Rounding out the remaining spots are New Mexico, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Hampshire.

Some of these exports may be linked to alleged war crimes. Building on previous reporting by Bellingcat, identifying marks on U.S. bombs used in the Dahyan bus bombing which killed at least 40 children and 11 adults, revealed that they were partially produced in Pennsylvania, the fifth largest exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Parts found at incidents lead to manufacturers in Texas, showing that even small exporters can have an outsized role in possible human rights violations.

Methodology

The Census Bureau organizes the data using a six digit international standard for goods known as the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS). These HS codes cover everything from agricultural goods to parts for military firearms. Using these codes, all other exported goods to Saudi Arabia and the UAE from 2015-March 2019 were filtered out from the dataset.

The data can be viewed from point of origin, or point of departure. Unless otherwise specified (as is done in the Wilmington and Tucson examples), all data used was point of origin data.

While not visualized, census information on which U.S. ports weapons are being exported from is included in the written portion of the analysis.

Shotguns, pistols and parts were not included in the data set due to the fact of Saudi Arabia’s relatively high level of private firearm ownership, which could skew the data. Included in the total export amounts are $48,222,682 in bombs, mines and guided missiles to the UAE that the Census data classifies as of “unknown” origin.

Six codes that were used for this particular dataset follow definitions included in the 2018 U.S. tariff schedule. The six codes, and the goods they cover, are:

930110 = Military Artillery Weapons (eg, Mortar, Howitzer)

930111 = Self Propelled Artillery Weapons

930120 = Rocket Launchers, Grenade Launchers, Torpedo Tubes and Flamethrowers

930190 = Machine Guns, Military Rifles, and Military Shotguns

930591 = Parts & Accessories of Military Weapons

930690 = Bombs, Guided Missiles, Grenades, Mines, Ammunition and Parts thereof

Census data has its limits, however, and should not be mistaken for a full accounting of U.S. weapons sales. For example, code 930111 (self-propelled artillery weapons) shows no sale of a M142 HIMARS system to the UAE. But information from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute shows a HIMARS delivery worth $143 million to the UAE in the timespan covered by the Census data. HIMARS systems have been seen used by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The Major Players

By far the largest exporter is North Carolina. From 2015 to March 2019, North Carolina moved over $1.9 billion in arms primarily to Saudi Arabia. Only $15 million of goods from North Carolina went to the United Arab Emirates.

The largest category of goods both produced in and exported from North Carolina are code 930690 goods — an umbrella category for bombs, guided missiles, grenades and mines. While not a party to the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty, the U.S. has committed since 2014 to destroy landmine stockpiles not destined for use in South Korea. Despite “mines” being part of the 930690 umbrella  it is likely the majority of goods leaving North Carolina are high-value aerospace goods. Home to the largest U.S. military base in the world,North Carolina has a robust and growing defense industry. This is supported by a variety of public relations endeavors advertising the state as a cheap option for aerospace and defense manufacturing.

Port-specific data shows a majority of shipments to Saudi Arabia left via the North Carolina maritime port of Wilmington, making it the largest point of departure for military goods to Saudi Arabia in the U.S.. A representative of the North Carolina Port Authority did not respond to questions about whether the port was facilitating foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia.

Arizona is the second largest source of weapons, with $1.2 billion to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates since 2015. In 2017 alone Arizona exported $328 million in bombs, guided missiles and related goods to the UAE, and almost $478 million to Saudi Arabia.

These massive numbers can be accounted for by the large presence of the aerospace industry in Tucson. Raytheon’s Missile Systems arms is based in Tucson and is the highest revenue generating business manufacturing guided missiles in North America.

Raytheon’s Tucson arm produces the Paveway II guided bomb kit alongside Lockheed Martin’s Pennsylvania branch. A device used in some of the most high-profile bombings in Yemen.

Raytheon is one of the largest employers in Arizona with 12,000 employees, slightly less than the number of people in Arizona employed by McDonald’s.

Arizona’s exports are not limited to high-value aerospace goods. Over $41 million in artillery and nearly $27 million in machine guns and other military firearms went to Saudi Arabia since the Saudi intervention in Yemen began. In contrast to North Carolina, port data from the Census Bureau shows these goods are both produced in Arizona and flown out of the country via Tucson rather than through maritime ports in California.

Alabama comes in third place with $789 million. Of this, $719 million are bombs, guided missiles, and related goods to the UAE. Alabama exports more goods to the UAE than any location other than the District of Columbia. Lockheed, Raytheon, BAE Systems, and Boeing all have a major presence in Alabama.

The Northern Gun Belt

Massachusetts was the largest exporter of machine guns and military rifles to Saudi Arabia and the UAE with $55 million. Pennsylvania came in second with $45 million, and Nevada a distant third with $35 million since the war in Yemen began. This presents a conservative estimate of overall U.S. gun sales to the two nations as the dataset excluded pistols and any other firearms exports possibly going to Saudi Arabia’s large civilian gun market.

New Hampshire was the largest exporter of rocket launchers and grenade launchers with exports of $61 million. Massachusetts came second with $49 million, and Pennsylvania third with $45 million. At least some of these goods left through the port of Baltimore as first reported by New Hampshire Public Radio.

The Human Cost

One of the most important questions posed by U.S. sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is what do these numbers mean? Can goods manufactured in specific U.S. states actually be tied to civilian deaths or even potential war crimes in Yemen? The answer is yes.

The Dahyan bus bombing that took place the morning of August 9, 2018 killed scores of children and injured many others. Bellingcat previously traced the fragments of a Paveway II bomb kit to Lockheed Martin. The Paveway II bomb kit turns an unguided “dumb” bomb into a laser-guided munition.

Running the CAGE numbers on the Paveway II fragments through publicly available databases leads to a Lockheed facility in Pennsylvania where the Paveway II is produced. Pennsylvania is the 4th largest state exporter of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In 2016, Lockheed’s Pennsylvania plant has “quadrupled production” of the Paveway II kit.

Other CAGE numbers on the fragments lead to a General Dynamics branch in Texas where the actual bomb casing for the MK82 is produced. The MK82 is the actual bomb the Paveway II kit is attached to. Texas comes 19th in terms of bomb and bomb exports, highlighting how even small exporters can end up having an outsized role in potential human rights violations.

Conclusion

Utilizing open source government data allows us to shed more light on the opaque world of U.S. arms sales. Each year billions of dollars in weapons are produced as part of Foreign Military Assistance and direct sales between defense contractors and unnamed countries. The data here is a small snapshot of the billions in weapons sales.

Those sales are due to rise. The Trump administration has made 2019 a banner year for undoing arms control measures. The first is push to stop classifying semi-automatic rifles and sniper rifles as weapons and take control of their export away from the State Department. The second is to “unsign” the U.S. from the Arms Trade Treaty. The third is to use a loophole in the law to push forward arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE without congressional approval.  

Since the intervention in Yemen began in 2015, Saudi and Emirati aircraft have conducted over 18,500 air raids, destroying hundreds of schools, farms, hospitals, and marketplaces. By March 2018 Saudi and Emirati forces conducted 161 air raids against weapons caches, and 221 against schools. Conservative estimates say more than 85,000 children have died as a result of the man-made famine that has resulted from the conflict. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have continued strikes despite UN saying further strikes could lead to “the world’s worst famine in 100 years”.

I would like to thank John Poland of Stop US Arms to Mexico for introduction in navigating the Census website, and the Forum on the Arms Trade workshop for inspiring the piece.

Eric Woods

Eric Woods is freelance journalist and researcher who focuses on issues of illicit weapons proliferation, non-state actor dynamics, and access to public education. He can be reached via Twitter @Er_Woods

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19 Comments

  1. Patriot Engineer

    Happy to provide Patriot missile defense to our allies, for defense from Iranian terrorist missile attacks. And the Paveway II laser guidance kit that turns dumb bombs into accurate smart bombs with much lower collateral damage. Creating thousands of jobs in flyover country. Now let’s kick Iran out of Yemen!

    Reply
    • Zurab Abayev

      I second that
      Bellingcat became an incredibly biased half truth propaganda machine

      Reply
      • oui oui

        speaking of machine , imagine an AI fed with your personal data , able to send you some text , to take part in some conversation and connected like that
        it’s from before Bellingcat was said biased , change the names Zurab Abayev , and don’t forget to change your name when you want to be many

        ( crazy snake ) June 30th, 2016
        Trolls work in organized groups:
        -Greg is playing a Russian troll and invite users to debunk easy riddles. He is playing on self esteem of commenters and is forming a negative appearance of a ‘Russian troll’.
        -Dude is trying to associate everybody who disagree with that appearance and label all together. He addresses emotions.
        -Others appeal to the mind and thoroughly and patiently explain how we should understand facts.
        -Mr Fox is posting direct, rude and fake statements just if anybody believe.
        -Rick is aggressively and consicely attacking personalities who disagree.
        Real people are watching astonished at all this mess.

        Reply
  2. Zurab Abayev

    I second that
    Bellingcat became an incredibly biased half truth propaganda machine

    Reply
  3. Malone

    Ah! The brave armchair ‘patriot’ warriors are at it again, knowing nothing of which they speak. Allies? In the Middle East? You must be joking. We have alienated just about every country that had anything approaching a sympathetic view of the U.S.
    Unless of course, you are referring to proto-fascist dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and the government of Israel which is practicing apartheid on their Palestinian citizens held captive in the largest open-air prisonin the world

    Reply
    • Patriot Engineer

      I engineer Patriot systems, get it? Obviously I was referring to our Saudi and Emirati allies, since that’s what this article was about. I’m even more proud to support democratic allies like Israel, Japan, and NATO.

      Palestinian Arabs are not citizens of Israel, but they are kept in open-air prisons in apartheid Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Unbelievably, they’re also kept in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, instead of being absorbed the way Israel absorbed Jewish refugees from around the world.

      Reply
      • Bigboi

        >Democracy
        >Israel

        I literally laughed out loud at this. They just passed a law saying Israel HAS to remain a Jewish state… That is not a democracy it is an ethnostate.

        Reply
    • Zurab Abayev

      Please go back to our earth
      Israel relations are now at their historical best
      Also. Israel is the only democracy in the middle east
      Egypt and Jordan are more allied with us now comparing with previous administration ( for example, Obama tried to support Muslim brotherhood which is Egypt’s biggest terrorist group).
      Syria essentially cease to exist in 2011
      Turkey was moving away from us since 2003
      Lebanon is hizbollah hostage and has no voice on its own, and Hope’s that we will crush Iran thereby freeing Lebanon from Iran’s death grip
      Yemen is torn by civil war for at least 5 years now
      Gulf states are allied with us except for Iranian controlled Qatar

      Reply
      • Karel koky

        Your point of view is that your country interests in region is more important then others. We in europe need midle east to stabilize. To bring peace into region you need to step back, you cant just opress everybody who doesnt like you or dont agree with you. You need to find common ground and compromise. Iran never tried to bring terrorism on european or us soil. Saudis do

        Reply
      • Jonty

        If Iran is controlling Qatar, how is it that US has one of the biggest camps there? Correct me if I am wrong. I really don’t get what Americans (The faithful guardians of Democracy) are doing in Gulf, other than selling war machinery to anyone willing to pay!! Why do US call everyone else is violate Human Rights, when they are the worst?? Can someone here clarify pls? I am from a non Muslim country a way from the area of war.

        Reply
  4. Martha Ture

    Question- does each state profit from the export of arms and if so how much? What part of each state ‘s revenue comes from these exports?

    Reply
  5. Pascale Vayer

    You stupid men!!!! We speak about the world’s worst famine in 100 years. We speak about the death of innocent children and women. Thanks, Bellingcat for this investigation.

    Reply
  6. Sharon Van Rider

    When the Iranian back Houthis terrorist came in took over a ligament government, took over their land they government of Yemen asked for the neighboring counties to help. It was Saudi & UAE with the help of the UN that has step in the stop the killing & the genocide of the Yeminis People. It has been the Houthis planting landmines, it has been the Houthis blocking medicine to the Yeminis People, and it has been the Houthis that has blocking billions of dollars of food aid to the Yemenis people. It’s the Houthis the blow up food banks. Now, causality of war happens. We as Americans all know this, we have all felt it and had to deal with this pain. We have asked for our allies to step and start taking care of Terrorist well guess what, this is what they are doing.

    Reply
    • Phil Otayce

      I am also from ‘ligament’ government…we also do tendons, bones, you name it, all on order of Mr Bone Saw… 85K kids dead, and counting..are you proud, Mr Patriot Engineer?? Merci, Bellingcat (IMA bot…damn these translation machines!!) 🙂

      Reply
  7. Everyoneisarussianbot

    Everyone here is just pushing one point through, everyone here is a bot.

    Love not War.

    If you are reading this, please google each key point and fact check using trusted sources. Misinformation is spreading fast.

    Don’t help it

    Reply
  8. Barrie Reid

    Houthi went onto the streets when bread and cooking oil prices dramatically increased. The government’s response was to use army snipers to quell the protests. Some thirty or so medics and nurses were killed, many casualties suffered gun shot wounds to shoulder and head. Indiscriminate use of Yemen’s soldiers was the catalyst for the present conflict. Houthi men raided arms stores and took the government on. What else would be expected from a marginalised people left to die of hunger?

    Reply
  9. Gordon Ou

    The US is using bases in UAE. So much is from the United States. I feel like equipment is used to control speech because if said something negative can end you lock up. Looking at sattlelite view, I could not see any equipment from other countries but NATO and that’s probably bought by the US. This relationship between the two countries should not be happening because of how many human rights the UAE have abused. They also have taken the rights of Women.

    Reply

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