EXCLUSIVE REPORT : Spain’s Arms Acquisition from Israel – An In-Depth Analysis of Contracts and Implications

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Since the onset of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalation on October 7, 2023, Spain has engaged in extensive arms procurement from Israeli companies, securing contracts worth €1.03 billion ($1.1 billion). This significant arms trade has been meticulously documented by the Delas Center for Peace Studies, revealing the intricate details of Spain’s military acquisitions despite political assurances to the contrary. This article delves into the specifics of these transactions, the types of weapons acquired, the companies involved, and the broader geopolitical and ethical implications of these deals.

Spain’s Arms Contracts with Israel: A Breakdown

High Mobility Missile System (SILAM)

Spain’s largest contract with Israeli defense companies is for the supply of the high mobility missile system, SILAM. Valued at €576.4 million, this system is designed to enhance Spain’s missile capabilities, providing advanced targeting and mobility features crucial for modern warfare. The SILAM system is known for its precision and adaptability, making it a significant addition to Spain’s military arsenal.

Spike Launchers

Another substantial contract involves the acquisition of 168 Spike launchers for €237.5 million. The Spike missile system, developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is a versatile, multi-platform, multi-mission weapon system. It is highly regarded for its precision strike capabilities, allowing for effective engagement of both stationary and moving targets. The purchase of these launchers underscores Spain’s commitment to enhancing its tactical strike capabilities.

Target Designators for Air Combat Systems

In addition to missile systems, Spain has invested €207.4 million in target designators for air combat systems. These devices are essential for modern air warfare, providing the necessary precision for targeting and engagement in complex combat scenarios. The integration of advanced target designators will significantly boost the effectiveness of Spain’s air force operations.

The Role of Israeli Subsidiaries and Technology Transfer

An intriguing aspect of Spain’s arms procurement from Israel is the involvement of subsidiaries and technology transfer agreements. A significant portion of the defense equipment with Israeli patents is manufactured in Spain by subsidiaries of Israeli companies or Spanish firms producing through technology transfer agreements. This arrangement not only facilitates the transfer of cutting-edge technology but also bolsters local manufacturing capabilities, creating a symbiotic relationship between Spanish and Israeli defense industries.

The Delas Center for Peace Studies highlights that Spain continued to allocate contracts to Israeli military companies and their subsidiaries in Spain, or other Spanish companies that produce Israeli products under technology transfer agreements. This strategy not only ensures the seamless supply of advanced military equipment but also supports the domestic defense industry, contributing to economic growth and technological advancement.

Political Assurances vs. Ground Realities

In April 2024, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez assured that Madrid had not concluded any buy or sell arms operation with Israel since October 2023. However, the findings of the Delas Center for Peace Studies contradict these assurances, revealing ongoing and substantial arms deals. This discrepancy between political statements and ground realities raises critical questions about transparency and accountability in defense procurement.

The continuation of arms purchases from Israel, despite political assurances, points to the complex interplay of national security interests, international relations, and domestic political considerations. It highlights the challenges governments face in balancing ethical considerations with strategic necessities.

Geopolitical and Ethical Implications

Spain’s extensive arms procurement from Israel has significant geopolitical and ethical implications. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains one of the most contentious issues in international politics, with profound humanitarian consequences. By engaging in substantial arms deals with Israel, Spain finds itself at the intersection of international diplomacy and ethical considerations.

Geopolitical Considerations

From a geopolitical perspective, Spain’s arms procurement from Israel can be seen as a strategic move to enhance its military capabilities in an increasingly volatile global security environment. The advanced weaponry and technology acquired from Israel bolster Spain’s defense posture, enabling it to respond more effectively to potential threats. Additionally, these deals strengthen bilateral relations between Spain and Israel, fostering closer military and technological cooperation.

Ethical Considerations

On the ethical front, these arms deals raise questions about Spain’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its commitment to human rights. The procurement of weapons from a country involved in an ongoing and highly controversial conflict could be perceived as an implicit endorsement of its military actions. This perception can have significant repercussions for Spain’s international image and its relations with other nations, particularly those sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Detailed Analytical List of All Sales

To provide a comprehensive understanding of Spain’s arms procurement from Israel, the following is a detailed analytical list of all sales, including specific contracts, types of equipment, and their strategic significance:

High Mobility Missile System (SILAM)

  • Contract Value: €576.4 million
  • Supplier: Israeli defense companies and their subsidiaries in Spain
  • Capabilities: Enhanced missile targeting and mobility, precision strike capabilities
  • Strategic Significance: Bolsters Spain’s missile defense system, providing advanced targeting and engagement features crucial for modern warfare.

168 Spike Launchers

  • Contract Value: €237.5 million
  • Supplier: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and subsidiaries in Spain
  • Capabilities: Versatile, multi-platform, multi-mission weapon system, precision strike capabilities
  • Strategic Significance: Enhances Spain’s tactical strike capabilities, effective engagement of both stationary and moving targets.

Target Designators for Air Combat Systems

  • Contract Value: €207.4 million
  • Supplier: Israeli defense companies and their subsidiaries in Spain
  • Capabilities: Precision targeting for air combat operations
  • Strategic Significance: Boosts the effectiveness of Spain’s air force operations, providing advanced targeting accuracy in complex combat scenarios.

The Role of Domestic Manufacturing and Technology Transfer

Spain’s strategy of involving domestic manufacturing and technology transfer agreements plays a crucial role in its defense procurement process. By producing Israeli-patented defense equipment locally, Spain not only secures a reliable supply of advanced military technology but also supports its domestic defense industry. This approach fosters technological innovation and economic growth within Spain, creating a robust defense industrial base.

The technology transfer agreements enable Spanish companies to manufacture advanced military equipment under Israeli patents, ensuring the integration of cutting-edge technology into Spain’s defense capabilities. This symbiotic relationship benefits both nations, with Israel gaining a reliable partner for manufacturing and Spain acquiring advanced defense technology.

Transparency and Accountability in Defense Procurement

The discrepancy between political assurances and the actual arms deals highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in defense procurement. Ensuring that defense procurement processes are transparent and accountable is essential for maintaining public trust and upholding ethical standards. Governments must navigate the complex terrain of national security, international relations, and ethical considerations, balancing the need for advanced military capabilities with the commitment to human rights and international diplomacy.

In-depth study and analysis….

Image : Spain, 5th country in the EU that has exported the most weapons and ammunition to Israel – Value of defense material exports to Israel from category 93 (weapons and ammunition) from EU countries since October 2023

Source: Center Delas (Data Comex)

The Complex Dynamics of Spanish Arms Exports: Analyzing Trade, Regulation, and Geopolitical Implications

In an increasingly interconnected world, the dynamics of arms exports play a critical role in shaping international relations, economic policies, and geopolitical stability. Spanish arms exports, in particular, have drawn significant attention due to their volume, destinations, and the political contexts in which they occur. This article delves into the intricacies of Spanish arms exports, examining data from recent years, scrutinizing regulatory frameworks, and evaluating the broader geopolitical implications of these transactions.

Spanish Arms Exports to Conflict Regions

TABLE – MAIN DESTINATIONS OF SPANISH EXPORTS OF MILITARY MATERIAL

Country20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023 (1-S)Total
Germany167,569.85272,448.95646,981.15771,701.051,213,006.921,237,785.461,033,013.90659,407.88432,623.22596,470.8382,551.647,113,560.85
United Kingdom546,144.69862,685.36474,378.761,346,682.42949,883.49412,648.82189,889.84398,770.87527,887.17393,882.92275,523.876,378,378.21
France402,333.48520,669.01326,688.89183,429.87422,090.25362,021.58493,400.87414,754.10654,270.38779,536.04464,630.755,023,825.22
Saudi Arabia406,437.36292,861.79545,979.75116,192.04270,165.80235,268.8635,366.4848,262.76109,087.70858,298.24279,382.113,197,302.89
Australia609,132.64139,688.5694,372.5122,905.80159,335.2223,040.52264,211.23256,009.24278,708.3812,432.5811,124.871,870,961.55
Turkey7,501.76243,673.49167,954.9784,995.69301,455.57319,535.16307,100.4832,015.3120,730.46131,840.919,416.251,626,220.05
Netherlands51.70402.511,766.508,254.162,749.823,389.986,222.32668,472.46407,568.31418,815.891,672.421,519,366.07
United Arab Emirates717,047.173,942.9126,738.8652,928.2013,883.51179,190.7027,682.3873,660.6520,493.514,928.011,120,495.90
Singapore845.732,330.095,031.054,356.747,982.80406,256.53342,022.16179,020.5821,945.19108,609.178,511.821,086,911.86
South Korea70.0414,394.9216,901.108,334.05214,192.41588,425.4711,219.5013,122.6517,942.065,641.70890,243.90
Italy117,304.1796,126.3271,461.62138,293.7590,330.0261,096.6652,527.0679,739.83100,031.2556,543.7919,656.17883,110.64
Oman98,036.1664,893.48161,335.79208,281.7372,832.1055,346.9523,012.9931,052.8333,357.3853,380.3515,730.13817,259.89
Malaysia5,490.812,515.28297,522.27167,632.50170,628.1230,643.6710,820.1115,252.0516,728.0088,411.268,561.12814,205.19
United States84,615.8134,026.1965,350.2567,174.7780,773.5274,069.3252,594.47131,212.0733,972.3323,193.0213,756.12660,737.87
Egypt126,653.09107,951.05106,412.58219,288.2312,570.3112,885.767,823.4511,278.9927,575.9610,933.9413,856.75657,230.11
Brazil114,523.7728,867.0831,995.6716,751.4626,316.667,916.0753,756.0051,604.3315,037.6314,495.1710,371.82371,635.66
Indonesia85,709.62112,030.5821,861.8165,911.3514,853.6635,476.5113,226.122,145.753,464.875,216.741,866.26361,763.27
Philippines102,089.5712,379.4611,969.82780.2956,899.104,133.5151,317.7655,799.1541,820.72337,189.38
Belgium4,225.117,248.418,799.652,111.914,237.724,194.0142,103.61155,256.4817,726.6625,757.567,443.26279,104.38
Greece97,380.3447,443.8518,652.2510,834.0038,457.3716,716.769,392.08218.19754.78714.231,259.00241,822.85
Canada1,969.883,310.794,792.402,627.582,066.541,917.752,789.8167,826.69106,577.085,999.9339,221.81239,100.26
Kazakhstan1,479.8953,895.5521,990.2673,320.1654,624.321,149.65431.5829,284.90414.351,002.57837.05238,430.28
Uzbekistan54,750.1149,229.07192.25174.00141.42388.33236.37163.81201.56105,476.90210,953.82
Total3,907,901.363,203,248.423,720,310.874,051,785.434,346,748.383,720,395.954,042,291.853,622,456.083,290,204.464,091,318.101,753,912.8939,751,574.79
MAIN DESTINATIONS OF SPANISH EXPORTS OF MILITARY MATERIAL – Source: Own elaboration from the General Subdirectorate of Foreign Trade of Defense and Dual Use Materials

Exports to the Middle East

In 2022, 23% of Spanish military material exports were destined for the Middle East, amounting to €947.4 million. In the first half of 2023 alone, these exports reached €334.3 million, representing 19% of the total exports for that period. The substantial volume of arms exports to this region raises critical questions about the role of Spanish arms in ongoing conflicts and political tensions.

Detailed Scheme Table

Table 2. Spanish exports of defense material to Middle Eastern countries 2013-2023 1st semester

Country2013 (€)2014 (€)2015 (€)2016 (€)2017 (€)2018 (€)2019 (€)2020 (€)2021 (€)2022 (€)2023 1-S (€)
Saudi Arabia406,437,360292,861,790545,979,750116,192,040270,165,800235,268,86035,366,48048,262,760109,087,700858,298,240279,382,110
Bahrain24,129,99039,931,5603,238,88019,080,82033,55003,253,0907,870,82041,00000
Qatar0666,770289,67066,1308,056,3102,078,830002,362,26000
Egypt126,653,090107,951,050106,412,580219,288,23012,570,31012,885,7607,823,45011,278,99027,575,96010,933,94013,856,750
UAE717,047,17003,942,91026,738,86052,928,20013,883,510179,190,70027,682,38073,660,65020,493,5104,928,010
Iraq0085,420,83052,690,81033,313,150000874,05000
Iran00000000000
Israel4,884,0003,428,0902,187,270530,9301,386,560619,3302,114,480477,2903,452,9702,346,210713,400
Jordan608,970190,2101,394,1105,096,950888,4903,117,3603,665,220174,740419,270199,84021,670
Kuwait0817,800834,00000014,40001,771,18019,681,4700
Lebanon00000000000
Oman98,036,16064,893,480161,335,790208,281,73072,832,10055,346,95023,012,99031,052,83033,357,38053,380,35015,730,130
Palestine00000000000
Syria00000000000
Yemen00000000000
Total1,377,797,200510,740,750911,035,790647,966,500452,174,480323,200,590254,440,810127,673,850249,957,190947,423,260334,313,530
Source: General Subdirectorate of Foreign Trade of Defense and Dual Use Materials. Own elaboration

Exports to Asia

Spanish military exports to Asian countries in 2022 totaled €396.3 million, accounting for 10% of the overall exports. This trend continued into the first half of 2023, underscoring Asia as a significant market for Spanish defense products. The geopolitical landscape of Asia, characterized by regional tensions and power struggles, adds another layer of complexity to these transactions.

Table 3. Exports of defense material to Asian countries 2013-2023 1st semester

Country20132014201520162017201820192020202120222023 1-STotal
Singapore845.732330.095031.054356.747982.80406256.53342022.16179020.5821945.19108609.178511.821086911.86
South Korea70.0414394.9216901.108334.05214192.41588425.4711219.5013122.6517942.065641.70890243.90
Malaysia5490.812515.28297522.27167632.50170628.1230643.6710820.1115252.0516728.0088411.268561.12814205.19
Indonesia85709.62112030.5821861.8165911.3514853.6635476.5113226.122145.753464.875216.741866.26361763.26
Philippines102089.5712379.4611969.82780.2956899.104133.5151317.7655799.1541820.72337189.38
Kazakhstan1479.8953895.5521990.2673320.1654624.321149.65431.5829284.90414.351002.57837.05238430.28
Pakistan4018.031441.972076.588437.7327598.1927517.7924898.945962.1840244.1041553.029704.17193452.69
Vietnam36491.5860588.142874.903501.184773.347175.701862.59246.4718503.8021675.29157692.99
Thailand2310.163431.533591.1236114.0652844.023790.6136294.183978.791695.321246.87749.76146046.41
India12053.7214783.378775.7617903.996180.673507.916652.823295.807165.3013392.5214575.90108287.75
Bangladesh0.7130240.32811.4015091.981563.589958.5939005.711902.2998574.57
Japan5766.005766.8916.00931.842035.001800.005373.1626726.89
Brunei350.00594.632.964794.2538.3729.105809.30
Afghanistan2257.73572.59149.30102.253081.87
Uzbekistan174.00388.33236.37163.81201.561164.06
Taiwan852.58166.951019.53
Turkmenistan780.00780.00
Kyrgyzstan5.109.1028.0042.20
Total114235.73227493.24538075.88411700.23394524.04729449.201103492.62260998.08173913.22396258.21121281.69

Exports to Ukraine

Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Spanish arms exports to the country were €31.3 million in 2022, with a sharp increase to €102.7 million in the first half of 2023. This surge reflects Spain’s role in supporting Ukraine’s defense capabilities amidst heightened hostilities.

Regulatory Framework and Compliance

The Role of JIMDDU

In 2022, the Interministerial Regulatory Board for Foreign Trade in Defense and Dual-Use Material (JIMDDU) granted 2,048 export authorizations and denied only one, which involved the export of 670 sporting pistols and their magazines to Pakistan due to diversion risk concerns. The low denial rate suggests a potential lack of political will to strictly enforce Spain’s Law 53/2007 on the control of external trade in defense and dual-use material, and the criteria established by the EU’s Common Position 2008/944/CFSP.

Compliance with International Law

The ongoing export of arms to Israel, despite the severe actions in Gaza, raises questions about compliance with international laws, particularly the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). According to Article 6.3 of the ATT, the Spanish government should deny new export authorizations and revoke or suspend existing ones if there’s a risk of genocide or severe violations of human rights. The current export practices suggest a gap between legal obligations and political actions.

Military Relations with Israel Post-October 7, 2023

Despite the critical situation in Gaza, Spain’s military relations with Israel have largely remained unchanged since October 7, 2023. These relations encompass various domains, including defense exports and imports, contract awards to Israeli companies, collaboration between Spanish and Israeli companies, and joint research and training projects. While Spanish authorities claim no new defense export licenses have been granted to Israel post-October 7, 2023, exports have continued. For instance, in November 2023, Nammo Palencia exported €987,000 worth of ammunition to Israel.

Export Trends and Major Destinations

2022 Export Trends

Spanish arms exports in 2022 amounted to €4.091 billion, a 24% increase from 2021. This growth occurred despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating the resilience and robustness of the defense industry. In the first half of 2023, exports reached €1.754 billion, suggesting a continuation of this upward trend.

Global Export Rankings

According to SIPRI, Spain ranked eighth globally in arms exports in 2022 and ninth in 2023. Over the decade from 2013 to 2023, Spain’s arms exports accounted for 2.6% of the global market. The global market is predominantly controlled by the United States, the European Union (led by France), Russia, and China, which collectively hold an 85% share.

Exported Products

Leading Categories

Over the past decade, the most exported Spanish defense products have been military aircraft and warships. Military aircraft accounted for 75% of total exports, valued at €29.925 billion (€2.573 billion in 2022). Warships followed with 7%, valued at €2.650 billion (€800.5 million in 2022). Other significant categories included munitions (4%, €1.619 billion), military vehicles (4%, €1.461 billion), and bombs, missiles, and torpedoes (2%, €935 million).

Principal Destinations

EU and NATO Countries

In 2022, 62.1% (€2.542 billion) of Spanish arms exports went to EU and NATO countries, primarily for cooperation and development projects within Europe. The main recipients were France (€779.5 million), Germany (€596.5 million), Italy (€56.5 million), and the UK (€393.9 million).

Middle East

Saudi Arabia has been a major recipient of Spanish arms, receiving €3.197 billion worth of military equipment from 2013 to 2023, including €858.3 million in 2022 and €279.4 million in the first half of 2023. The UAE, Oman, and Egypt have also been significant recipients.

Asia

Key Asian recipients of Spanish arms include Singapore (€1.086 billion from 2013-2023), South Korea (€890 million), and Malaysia (€814 million). These exports include various military equipment such as aircraft components, munitions, and defense systems.

Geopolitical and Ethical Considerations

Impact on Regional Conflicts

The export of Spanish arms to conflict-prone regions like the Middle East and Asia raises ethical and geopolitical concerns. The potential exacerbation of conflicts and the contribution to regional instability highlight the need for stringent export controls and ethical considerations in defense trade policies.

Arms Control and Embargoes

Given the grave human rights violations and potential war crimes in regions like Gaza, there is a strong case for the Spanish government to impose arms embargoes or at least stringent controls on exports to certain countries. This would align with international legal obligations and contribute to global peace and security.

Spanish arms exports play a significant role in the global defense market, driven by strategic economic and political considerations. However, the ethical and geopolitical implications of these exports, particularly to conflict zones and countries with questionable human rights records, cannot be ignored. A balanced approach that considers both economic benefits and moral responsibilities is essential for shaping a responsible and sustainable defense export policy.

The Dynamics and Implications of Spanish Arms Exports to Ukraine and Israel: A Detailed Analysis

Spanish Arms Exports to Ukraine

In 2022, Spain’s defense industry exported military equipment worth €31.3 million to Ukraine. This included grenade launchers, 120mm mortar grenades, howitzers, 7.62mm machine guns and their ammunition, 155mm shells, 12.7mm rounds, remote control systems, transport vehicles, and tires. Additionally, the Spanish government authorized exports to Ukraine amounting to €309.8 million in 2022. These authorizations primarily covered categories 1, 2, 3, and 4, which include ammunition, projectiles, bombs, and missiles. Specifically, 44,000 units of 155mm shells valued at €118.4 million were approved for export.

During the first half of 2023, Spain exported €102.7 million worth of military material to Ukraine, focusing predominantly on projectiles and ammunition. This included 32,700 units of 155mm shells valued at €34.2 million. Moreover, export authorizations for Ukraine during this period totaled €206.1 million. In addition, the Spanish government donated six tanks, 7.62mm cartridges, and tank spare parts to the Ukrainian military.

Authorization Discrepancies in Spanish Arms Exports

A notable aspect of Spain’s arms export policy is the significant disparity between authorized exports and actual exports. Over the past decade, only about 30% of authorized military material has been exported on average. This discrepancy, coupled with the fact that only one export was denied in both 2022 and the first half of 2023, suggests a governmental policy that prioritizes the facilitation and promotion of the defense industry, minimizing obstacles or limitations to military exports.

Export Authorizations and Regional Implications

The potential for Israel’s military offensive against Palestine to escalate and involve other countries in the region is a significant concern. In the first half of 2023, 55% of all authorized military exports were destined for Middle Eastern countries, notably Saudi Arabia (€534 million), the United Arab Emirates (€321 million), Israel (€44 million), and Oman (€40 million). In 2022, authorizations for military material to the Middle East accounted for 36% of the total, with Saudi Arabia receiving €1.1 billion, Egypt €236 million, Oman €54 million, and the UAE €49 million. Actual exports to the Middle East in 2022 represented 9% of total exports, led by Saudi Arabia (€858 million), followed by Oman (€53 million), the UAE (€20 million), and Egypt (€10 million). In the first half of 2023, 3% of exports were destined for the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia again at the forefront with €279 million, followed by Kuwait (€20 million), Oman (€16 million), and Egypt (€14 million).

Denial of Export Authorizations

In 2022, the Interministerial Board for Defense and Dual-Use Material granted 2,048 export licenses and denied only one. In the first half of 2023, 927 licenses were granted, with just one denial. The denied exports were a sale of 670 sporting pistols and their magazines to Pakistan due to diversion risks, and 32 tons of trinitrotoluene to Serbia.

The minimal number of denials indicates a lack of political will to rigorously enforce Law 53/2007 on the control of external trade in defense and dual-use material and the criteria established by the EU’s Common Position 2008/944/CFSP. This underutilization of national and European legislation suggests that stricter application of denial criteria could significantly impact final sales.

The Arms Trade with Israel: Post-October 7, 2023

Spain and Israel have maintained significant arms trade relations for decades. These relations have not been significantly affected by Israel’s various military campaigns in Gaza throughout the 21st century. However, on October 7, 2023, Palestinian armed groups launched attacks against military and civilian targets in Israel, triggering unprecedented violence and a new chapter in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Spanish Arms Exports to Israel Post-October 7, 2023

Despite assurances from Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares that no Spanish arms exports to Israel had occurred since October 7, official reports and data discrepancies complicate the understanding of the exact nature and volume of these exports. The official export report from the State Secretariat for Commerce for 2023 is not yet available, and the EU’s official report for 2023 will not be available until December 2024. These reports may not detail specific exports between October 7 and December 31, 2023.

The Foreign Trade database and the DataComex portal of the State Secretariat for Commerce provide monthly economic and weight data for exports. However, only certain categories used in the arms export report are clearly identified. For example, code 93 (arms and ammunition) typically includes economic volumes related to the first four categories and category 6 (military vehicles and components), which might correspond to code 8710 (“combat armored vehicles, including armed; parts”). The rest of the categories are difficult to identify as “defense material” due to product knowledge limitations. There are at least five other categories that Israel has received from Spain in the past five years.

November 2023 Export Details

The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under Minister José Manuel Albares, stated in December 2023 that no arms exports to Israel had occurred since October 7. However, this claim was contradicted by the export of €987,000 worth of munitions to Israel in November 2023 by Nammo Palencia, a subsidiary of the Norwegian-Finnish multinational Nammo. Nammo Palencia did not respond to Spanish media inquiries, but in Norway, where the company is publicly owned, there is an ongoing public debate regarding arms exports by Norwegian companies abroad. Notably, Norway bans direct arms exports to Israel, but these transactions occur through subsidiaries in countries like the United States and Spain.

The Spanish Secretary of State for Trade claimed that the exported items were “non-explosive ammunition” of “medium caliber,” yet Nammo acknowledged that at least 200 of these rounds were complete with explosive charges. These 200 rounds accounted for 1.5% of the total exported. The recipient company, Elbit Systems, is Israel’s leading defense contractor and ranks 24th globally in terms of sales. According to the DIMSE database of Israeli defense and security exports, Elbit supplies most of the ground equipment and drones used by the Israeli military. Elbit’s drones are marketed as “combat-proven,” and the company produces the Iron Sting guided mortar, deployed in combat for the first time in Gaza in October.

Elbit also supplies the Spanish Army with the Cardom mortar system, which fires the Iron Sting mortar and has been tested in combat. The Spanish Army formalized a contract on November 14, worth €496,000, for the maintenance and acquisition of items for the Cardom system. Elbit was excluded from Norway’s Global Pension Fund in 2009 due to its involvement in the West Bank separation wall and associated control regime. However, Elbit remains a prominent player in the Spanish defense market.

Export Details and Economic Analysis

Each cartridge exported to Israel in November cost approximately €74. The term “medium caliber” typically refers to ammunition of at least 20mm, although some publications start at 12.7mm (half an inch). It is most likely that the exported munitions were 30mm x 173 rounds. This conclusion is supported by the following:

  • In 2022, the official export report by the Spanish Secretariat of Commerce listed “30mm x 173 rounds for testing” among the products exported to Israel, and in 2021, it listed “inert 30mm x 173 rounds for testing.”
  • Nammo Palencia is the only manufacturer of 30mm x 173 ammunition in Spain and represents Spain in the NATO Expert Team tasked with defining and agreeing on technical aspects of this caliber.

Elbit also manufactures 30mm x 173 ammunition, but its catalog only includes two versions: M201 HE-T (high-explosive tracer) and M200 TP-T (training practice tracer). The TP-T “training” round can penetrate armored vehicles and is used to test the HE-T round.

Exports of Armored Vehicles

From October to February, Spain has consistently exported defense material to Israel each month. In December, €125,240 worth of goods classified under category 93069010 (“bombs, grenades, torpedoes, mines, missiles, and other munitions and projectiles, and their parts (excluding cartridges)”) were exported from Madrid. According to DataComex, this operation was intended for re-export to a third destination, specifically the Philippines.

It is likely that this export was conducted by Santa Bárbara Sistemas, a Spanish subsidiary of the U.S. defense giant General Dynamics, which ranks fifth globally among arms companies according to SIPRI. Santa Bárbara is involved in a $172 million contract for the delivery of “light” armored vehicles (30 tons) to the Philippine armed forces. This vehicle, an adapted version of the ASCOD (“Pizarro” in Spain), features a command and control turret and a 105mm cannon, produced by Santa Bárbara in Oviedo, with the turret and cannon supplied by Elbit. This system is marketed as “combat-proven.” According to Infodefensa, these vehicles were sent to Israel for Elbit to install their weapon systems before being re-exported to the Philippines.

In the first half of 2023, Spain authorized 22 export licenses to Israel, totaling €44.371 million, all under category 6 (“land vehicles and components”). The Spanish Secretariat of Commerce confirmed to El País in December that these authorizations were for the export of 18 armored vehicles to be re-exported by Israel to the Philippines. Seventeen of these vehicles were sent to Israel in July, with the final one shipped in September.

This data aligns with DataComex statistics for category 8710 (“combat armored vehicles, including armed; parts”). In 2021, Spain exported “an armored vehicle for re-export to the Philippine armed forces,” valued at €2.4 million. This is consistent with the cost of a Pizarro vehicle and almost matches the value of the vehicle sent in September. However, in 2022, the value for category 6 was only €9,900, while category 5 (“fire control systems”) accounted for €1.4 million. Category 5 exports to Israel were described as “parts and pieces of armored vehicles for re-export to the Philippine armed forces.” In 2021, €237,000 worth of category 5 items were also exported.

Post-October 7, exports to Israel under category 8710 have continued in October, November, January, and February. Data for January and February include a note indicating the Philippines as the final destination. This note did not appear before December, nor in other months or years, nor in relation to any other country, despite numerous examples of exports to Israel intended for re-export to third countries. This discrepancy likely stems from the controversy over Nammo’s November exports, during which the Spanish government claimed no exports had occurred since October 7.

According to DataComex, Spain ranked fifth in the EU for exporting category 93 (arms and ammunition) material to Israel post-October 7, with a total of €1.1 million. Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Slovenia, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, and Poland reported no category 93 exports to Israel during this period. However, it is essential to note that category 93 only covers arms and ammunition, not the broader range of “defense material” included in official reports. For instance, Germany is estimated to have approved arms export licenses to Israel worth nearly $353 million, while category 93 exports between October and February amounted to just €122,530.

Imports to Spain from Israel and Defense Contracts

Image : This is how arms imports from Israel have risen – Value of imports of defense material to Spain from Israel of category 93 (weapons and ammunition) and 8710 (armored vehicles) between 2014 and 2024 – 2024 data only from the first quarter – Source: Center Delas (Data Comex)

Unlike exports, there is no official annual report on imports from the Spanish Secretariat of State for Commerce. The Ministry of Defense publishes an annual report titled “The Defense Industry in Spain,” but this report only lists the top ten countries from which Spain imports defense material each year. In the reports for 2019, 2018, 2015, 2014, and 2013, Israel did not appear on this list, making it difficult to ascertain the official declared import quantities. However, in 2021, the most recent available report, Israel ranked sixth with €45 million, accounting for 1.7% of defense imports, following Germany (40.5%), France (33.2%), the US (6.2%), the UK (4%), and Canada (3.7%).

On April 10, 2024, during a session of the Congress of Deputies, President Pedro Sánchez responded to a question from ERC spokesperson Gabriel Rufián, stating, “Rest assured, since October 7, Spain has not conducted any arms transactions with Israel, none. This must be clear to you and, of course, to the Spanish public.” This statement proved incorrect, as not only did Spain export munitions in November and December, but it also continued to acquire weaponry from Israeli companies, as it had done before October 7. The Secretary of State for Trade confirmed to elDiario.es in February that imports had not been suspended.

Article 6.3 of the Arms Trade Treaty specifies that weapons or components could be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, severe violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, attacks on civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes defined in international agreements. Article 2 further details that international trade activities include export, import, transit, transshipment, and brokerage, collectively referred to as “transfers.” The Arms Trade Treaty is part of Spanish legislation, and even the US has acknowledged that it is “reasonable to assess” that Israel has violated international law in Gaza.

Despite these regulations, the import statistics can give a misleading perception of the actual economic volume of Israeli arms acquired by Spain. DataComex only captures a small portion of “defense material” under code 93. Many products are manufactured in Spain by subsidiaries of Israeli companies or other firms through technology transfer agreements. This creates a significant discrepancy between the volumes of “imports” and “acquisitions” of Israeli arms.

Spain has continued awarding contracts to Israeli military companies, their subsidiaries in Spain, or other Spanish firms producing Israeli products through technology transfer agreements. Annex 3 includes a selection of contracts awarded after October 7, 2023.

Key Contracts and Companies

Among the key Israeli defense companies awarded contracts are Elbit Systems and Rafael, the first and third largest Israeli arms companies, ranked 24th and 42nd globally by arms sales. Rafael is a state-owned Israeli enterprise, while Elbit, though private, maintains a close strategic relationship with the Israeli military. These companies have significantly benefited from military operations in Gaza, frequently utilizing and marketing the same products offered to the Spanish armed forces. The contracts highlight the dependence on these companies for specific products and their maintenance and modernization, thus limiting Spain’s sovereignty in times of political tension.

Example of Defense Contracts

Palantir Technologies Inc., through its Spanish subsidiary Palantir Technologies Spain, was awarded a contract on October 10, 2023 (formalized on November 6), for “a solution for fusion and analysis of intelligence in the field of the Armed Forces Intelligence System,” with a base tender budget of €20,013,400 and an estimated contract value (excluding taxes) of €16,540,000. Palantir has Israeli capital and special relations with the Israeli military. Major shareholders include Vanguard and Blackrock, aside from the magnate Peter Thiel. Palantir provides AI models for military applications and signed a “strategic partnership” with the Israeli Ministry of Defense to supply technology supporting its “war missions.” According to Palantir’s Vice President Josh Harris, this partnership aims to significantly assist the Israeli Ministry of Defense in addressing the current situation in Israel. CEO Alex Karp noted increased demand for Palantir’s products in Israel since October 7, proudly stating that the company has been actively involved in critical operations on the ground in Israel, despite losing employees over this stance.

Detailed Analysis of Import Statistics

The discrepancies in import statistics and the actual economic volume of defense material acquired from Israel are due to several factors. DataComex captures only part of the imports under code 93, which covers arms and ammunition. Many defense products are manufactured in Spain by subsidiaries of Israeli companies or through technology transfer agreements, leading to underreported import volumes.

For instance, Israeli companies like Elbit Systems and Rafael have established significant operations in Spain, producing and supplying advanced defense systems to the Spanish military. These companies often engage in joint ventures with Spanish firms, further complicating the tracking of imports and acquisitions.

Key Points in Spanish-Israeli Defense Trade

  • Elbit Systems: Elbit Systems is a major supplier of advanced defense systems to the Spanish military, including the Cardom mortar system and various other weapons and electronic systems. The ongoing contracts and maintenance agreements highlight the strategic dependence on Elbit for critical defense capabilities.
  • Rafael: Rafael’s role in supplying advanced missile and defense systems to Spain underscores the importance of Israeli technology in Spain’s defense strategy. The company’s state-owned status and involvement in controversial military operations in Gaza raise ethical and legal questions regarding these imports.
  • Palantir Technologies: Palantir’s involvement in supplying intelligence analysis solutions to the Spanish military, despite its controversial role in Israeli military operations, illustrates the complex interplay between technology, defense, and international relations.

The continued imports of defense material from Israel to Spain and the awarding of contracts to Israeli companies underscore the deep and complex relationship between the two countries in the defense sector. Despite official statements to the contrary, these transactions have persisted post-October 7, raising significant ethical, legal, and geopolitical questions. The reliance on Israeli defense technology and the strategic partnerships formed through these contracts highlight the challenges in balancing national defense needs with international legal obligations and ethical considerations.

The Spanish arms export policy, especially in the context of Ukraine and Israel, reveals a complex interplay of economic interests, geopolitical strategies, and regulatory challenges. While the Spanish government has made efforts to comply with international laws and ethical standards, the significant gaps between export authorizations and actual exports, along with the minimal denial of export licenses, highlight areas for potential improvement. The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Israel further complicate these dynamics, necessitating a more nuanced and stringent approach to arms exports that balances economic benefits with moral and legal responsibilities.

In conclusion, Spain’s extensive arms procurement from Israel, valued at €1.03 billion, underscores the intricate dynamics of defense procurement in the modern era. The acquisition of advanced missile systems, launchers, and target designators enhances Spain’s military capabilities, ensuring its preparedness for potential threats. However, these deals also raise significant geopolitical and ethical considerations, highlighting the challenges governments face in balancing strategic interests with ethical responsibilities.

The detailed analysis of these arms deals, including the role of domestic manufacturing and technology transfer, provides a comprehensive understanding of Spain’s defense procurement strategy. The need for transparency and accountability in this process is paramount, ensuring that political assurances align with ground realities and that ethical considerations are duly addressed. As Spain continues to navigate the complex landscape of international diplomacy and defense procurement, these factors will play a crucial role in shaping its future policies and actions.


resource :

  • centredelas.org. – Delas Center for Peace Studies Report
  • https://www.eldiario.es/
  • https://www.aa.com.tr/en
  • Centre Delàs de Estudios por la Paz. (2023). Database of Spanish Arms Exports.
  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). (2023).
  • Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2023.Arms Trade Treaty. (2014). United Nations.

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