Arms deal in 2021: How major powers realigned the military landscape

 | Updated: Dec 04, 2021, 12:33 PM IST

In a major announcement last month, Italy said Europe's Tempest and Future Combat Air System (FCAS) will eventually merge.

Rafale jets

The race to strike international arms deal was one of the highlights of the year. In the latest development, France announced it was selling the 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters to UAE in a $19 billion deal.

In a major announcement last month, Italy's Air Force chief of staff  General Luca Goretti said Europe's Tempest and Future Combat Air System (FCAS) will eventually merge creating a new defence hub with several new programmes set to run concurrently.

The Tempest project which includes BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, European missile maker MBDA and the British arm of Italian defence group Leonardo with a multi-billion-dollar budget from the British government till 2025.



In fact, Germany and Spain are working on the rival FCAS project to replace France's Rafale and German and Spanish Eurofighters.

European military and industry officials have frequently speculated that Europe would end up with one programme to pool constrained budgets and to avoid repeating the damaging effects of competition in the past.

In October, Greece signed a defence deal with France for the purchase of three French warships with an eye on Turkey in the Aegean. 

Under the deal, three Belharra frigates are to be delivered starting from 2025 which is set to be finalised by the end of this year to the tune of $3.5 billion even as Turkey lashed out at the multibillion-euro warship deal.

Greece had agreed to buy six more Rafale jets with 24 French fighters now sold to Athens for billions of dollars.


US supplies F-16V fighters to Taiwan

As tensions continued between China and Taiwan, President Tsai Ing-wen government commissioned the US-built advanced F-16s.

Taiwan has been converting 141 F-16A/B jets into the F-16V type, 64 of which have already been upgraded, and has additionally ordered 66 new F-16Vs, which have new avionics, weapons and radar systems to better face down the Chinese air force, including its J-20 stealth fighter.

The F-16V can carry Raytheon Technologies Corp's advanced AIM-9X sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

The United States in 2019 had approved an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, a deal that would take the island's F-16 fleet to more than 200 jets, the largest in Asia. China moved quickly to announce sanctions on Lockheed Martin for selling arms to Taiwan.


US arms sale to Saudi Arabia

Last month, the US State Department approved its first major arms sale to Saudi Arabia under President Joe Biden with the sale of 280 air-to-air missiles valued at up to $650 million.

The US State Department had approved the sale on October 26.

The deal includes 280 AIM-120C-7/C-8 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM), 596 LAU-128 Missile Rail Launchers (MRL) along with containers and support equipment, spare parts topped up with US government and contractor engineering and technical support.



The US State Department has made a determination approving a possible sale to Australia of MH-60R multi-mission helicopters and related equipment for an estimated cost of $985 million.

In a major development this year, Australia, US and Britain came together to form the AUKUS military alliance in a bid to contain China.

Under the deal, the US and Britain will help in the manufacture of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia.

The submarines used by the US Navy, and also the British, who are part of the deal with Australia, use highly enriched uranium(HEU), enriched to a level of 93 per cent. At that level, the submarines can run for 30 years without new fuel.

Only six countries - the United States, Britain, France, China, India and Russia -- have nuclear-powered submarines. Countries have been cautious about allowing the spread of technology and fuel.


China supplies tanks to Pak

China which has become a major arms exporter in the past decade has also joined the great game.

In July this year, Pakistan formally inducted the first batch of the Chinese VT-4 battle tanks produced by Chinese state-owned armoured vehicle manufacturer, Norinco.

China also delivered "the most advanced warship" to Pakistan. The ship is a Type 054A/P frigate which has been named PNS Tughril by the Pakistan Navy.


PNS Tughril

PNS Tughril has "surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and underwater firepower" and can carry out "extensive surveillance" including combat management and "electronic warfare system".

According to China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited (CSSC), the warship is the "largest and most advanced warship ever exported".

Reports had earlier claimed that Argentina was planning to buy Chinese-built 12 JF-17A fighters. The warplane is jointly built by Pakistan and China's Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.


Ukraine-Russia tensions

As tensions raged between Russia and Ukraine, Kyiv announced it will build a factory to produce Turkish armed drones.

In September, Ukrainian defence minister Andriy Taran and Haluk Bayraktar had signed a memorandum to establish a joint training and maintenance centre for the drones in Ukraine.

Ukraine has previously purchased the Bayraktar TB2 drones, Baykar's flagship model that has been used in conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh.


Lukashenko eyes S-400 missile defence system

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko who has been at the centre of tension with Poland over the migrant issue at the border recently declared he wanted $1 billion worth of Russian arms while eyeing the S-400 missile defence system.

President Putin has agreed to supply Belarus with weapons valued at more than $1 billion by 2025.