A controversial deal with Saudi Arabia catapulted Britain to the top of the world arms export league last year, as UK firms won a record £10bn in orders from overseas, official figures show.
The figure amounts to a third of all worldwide export orders for military equipment, ministers and arms companies reported. An essentially political, government-to-government contract - the sale of 72 Eurofighter/Typhoon aircraft, for £4.4bn, to the Saudis - accounted for Britain's number one position, the figures make clear.
The Ministry of Defence says the terms of the contract - called Salam, Arabic for peace - and the total expenditure involved are confidential. But officials make it clear that when upkeep, spares and training were included, the deal could amount to £20bn spread over many years. The figures last year were also boosted by orders placed by Oman and Trinidad and Tobago for patrol boats.
The companies involved - chiefly BAE Systems and the VT Group - were praised by the trade minister, Digby Jones.
"As demonstrated by this outstanding export performance, the UK has a first-class defence industry, with some of the world's most technologically sophisticated companies," he said.
A trade minister praising sophisticated killing machines and a contract called "Peace"...? Orwell, anyone?