Germany approves sale of IRIS-T air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia

Source: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), Reuters, Defence Industry Europe

In a notable policy shift, Germany has approved the export of 150 Diehl Defence IRIS-T air-to-air missiles to Saudi Arabia, as confirmed by a government spokesperson on Wednesday. This decision marks the resumption of German arms exports to the kingdom, which had been halted since the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.


The approval, sanctioned by Germany’s federal security council in December, was first reported by Spiegel news magazine and later substantiated by a document from the economy ministry obtained by Reuters. The missiles, manufactured by German arms company Diehl, are designed to be deployed from Saudi Arabia’s Eurofighter jets.



This new batch of missiles is intended to replenish Saudi Arabia’s arsenal, which has been significantly depleted over recent years. A security source disclosed that the missiles have been increasingly used to intercept drones launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.

This move represents a significant shift in German foreign policy. Both Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have stated this week that the German government will no longer obstruct British efforts to sell additional Eurofighters to Riyadh.



The IRIS-T guided missile was developed as aircraft armament for air-to-air missions within a European cooperation program.

The combination of thrust vector and aerodynamic control provides the missile with extremely high agility. An additional technological leap was achieved with the imaging IR seeker head in conjunction with intelligent image processing. Target designation is accomplished by airborne radar or via the pilot’s helmet sight. IRIS-T´s outstanding features even permit engaging targets behind the aircraft as well as interception of opponents`missiles.

In addition to the consortium partners Germany (pilot nation), Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Spain, further countries worldwide decided to procure IRIS-T. It was selected as standard weapon for the Eurofighter, F-16, EF-18, Tornado and Gripen fighter aircraft.



Besides its role as aircraft armament, IRIS-T is currently also employed as a surface-launched guided missile, e.g. in the ground-based air defence system IRIS-T SLS for object and short-range protection. Moreover, the Norwegian Air Force for the first time demonstrated IRIS-T`s capability of also engaging sea targets in a test firing in 2016.

Diehl Defence is prime contractor in the IRIS-T program, producing the missile since 2005 in cooperation with industrial partners from six European program nations.



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