London High Court rejects bid to halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

FILE PHOTO: The Royal Courts of Justice are seen in London Britain. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 July 2017
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London High Court rejects bid to halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

LONDON: The London High Court threw out an attempt to halt UK military sales worth billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia, in a case brought by an anti-arms group.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had asked the court for an order to block export licenses for British-made military exports to the Kingdom, which it claimed had been used in Yemen in breach of human rights law.
The judges found that the UK secretary of state for international trade was “rationally entitled to conclude” that the Saudi Arabia-backed coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians.
The 58-page judgment handed down by Lord Justice Burnett and Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave follows three days of hearings in February. 
In their judgment, the pair said: “Saudi Arabia has been and remains genuinely committed to compliance with international humanitarian law.”
The court, which heard much of the government’s case in hearings closed to the media and public, said there had been extensive political and military engagement with Saudi Arabia regarding the conduct of operations in Yemen.
Referring to the closed material submitted by the government, the judges said, “The advantage of the closed material procedure is that we have had full access to all the facts and materials relied upon by the secretary of state.”
Saudi Arabia has been backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government following the outbreak of a civil war in the country in 2015.
The court decision helped to lift shares in the UK’s BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defense contractor, which rose 2 percent to 630 pence.
Sales to Saudi Arabia accounted for more than a fifth of the FTSE 100-listed company’s total revenues last year.
Thousands of UK defense-industry jobs depend on Saudi arms exports, while BAE Systems also employs thousands of workers in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is critical for UK defense exports,” said Ben Moore, an analyst with IHS Jane’s, who estimates that there are some $8.6 billion in booked orders destined for the Kingdom from the UK over the next decade.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest export customer for the Eurofighter combat aircraft and also buys a range of other military equipment from the UK including training aircraft and radar systems.
The closely watched case comes as Britain prepares to leave the EU and is seeking to boost defense industry exports in key markets that include Saudi Arabia.
Defense spending across the Middle East and North Africa is expected to rise by about 1.4 percent to $165 billion this year according to IHS Jane’s.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We welcome this judgment, which underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.
“We will continue to keep our defense exports under careful review to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.”
Rosa Curling, a lawyer for CAAT, described the judgment as “very disappointing.”
“Our client has put in an immediate application to appeal which we hope will be granted,” she said.


New software glitch found in Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet

Updated 20 min 13 sec ago
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New software glitch found in Boeing’s troubled 737 Max jet

  • Test pilots trying out Boeing’s updated Max software found a flaw that could result in the plane’s nose pitching down
  • The Max began passenger flights in 2017 and is Boeing’s best-selling plane, although fewer than 400 have been delivered to airlines
A new software problem has been found in the troubled Boeing 737 Max that could push the plane’s nose down automatically, and fixing the flaw is almost certain to further delay the plane’s return to flying after two deadly crashes.
Boeing said Wednesday that the FAA “identified an additional requirement” for software changes that the aircraft manufacturer has been working on for eight months, since shortly after the first crash.
“Boeing agrees with the FAA’s decision and request, and is working on the required software to address the FAA’s request,” Boeing said in a statement.
Government test pilots trying out Boeing’s updated Max software in a flight simulator last week found a flaw that could result in the plane’s nose pitching down, according to two people familiar with the matter. In both Max crashes, the plane’s flight-control software pushed the nose down based on faulty readings from one sensor.
The people said fixing the issue might be accomplished through software changes or by replacing a microprocessor in the plane’s flight-control system. One said the latest setback is likely to delay the plane’s return to service by an extra one to three months. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss aspects of the review process that are not public.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said it will lift its grounding of the plane only when it deems the jet safe — there is no set timeline.
“On the most recent issue, the FAA’s process is designed to discover and highlight potential risks. The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” the agency said.
The Max began passenger flights in 2017 and is Boeing’s best-selling plane, although fewer than 400 have been delivered to airlines. A Max flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in October, and an Ethiopian Airlines Max crashed in March. In all, 346 people died. Days after the second crash, regulators around the world grounded the plane.
Boeing is scaling back the power of flight-control software called MCAS to push the nose down. It is also linking the software’s nose-down command to two sensors on each plane instead of relying on just one in the original design.
It is still uncertain what kind of training pilots will get for flying the plane with the new software — either computer-based or in-flight simulators.
Meanwhile, some airlines that own Max jets have had to cancel large numbers of flights while the planes remain grounded.
On Wednesday, United Airlines pushed back the scheduled return of its 14 Max jets until September. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines had already made similar announcements — an acknowledgement that the plane won’t return to flying as soon as the airlines had hoped.
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David Koenig can be reached at http://twitter.com/airlinewriter