Douglas Bernhardt

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Douglas Bernhardt (referred to in some reports as Douglas Bernhart) is an American arms dealer.

Field Arms

According to journalist Mark Urban, Bernhardt tried his hand at the travel industry before getting involved in the arms business, in which he traded in London for several years with British government backing.

Field Arms Ltd, Mr Bernhardt's company, occupied premises in Mayfair, central London. It was set up in 1983 with a pounds 75,000 bank loan, underwritten by the Department of Employment.
Mr Bernhardt operated as a freelance arms dealer, one of an unusual breed of middlemen whose activities are rarely revealed in public.

One visitor to the basement of Field Arms' offices in Tilney Street remembers a display of military hardware featuring dummies in uniform, camouflage nets and a variety of weapons which he described as being 'like a shop window'.

Another remembered Mr Bernhardt bringing Arab clients to inspect weaponry - from silenced sniper's rifles to night sights and gold plated pistols.[1]

Defense & Foreign Affairs included the following entry for the company in 1985:

Field Arms Ltd. 10, Tilney Street, Audley Square, London W1Y 5LD, UK. Tel: 629 4866. Telex: 265799. Douglas Bernhardt, Man Dir; Gary Gray, Special Products Man; Lt. Col. John Hickey, Head of Defence Projects. Assault Rifles, submachine guns, silenced and other special-purpose weapons, ammunition, mines, riot-control equipment, grenades, mortars and mortar shells, body armor, explosives.[2]

Urban reported that "Field Arms tried to produce and market a silenced sniper's rifle. Mr Bernhardt told some contacts that he was about to sell the weapon to the SAS, although there is no evidence that he succeeded." The company was wound up by creditors in 1985 and Bernhardt set up business in Geneva.[3]

Blowpipe missile deal

Bernhardt was arrested in a Paris hotel room in April 1989 along with three members of the UDA (the Ulster Defence Association, a loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland): Noel Little, Samuel Quinn, and James King, and a South African diplomat, Daniel Storm, to whom they were delivering parts for a Blowpipe missile launcher. Storm was released owing to his diplomatic immunity but the others were questioned by the French DST counterintelligence agency. The RUC said that a dummy Blowpipe missile had been stolen from a Territorial Army base in Newtownards, Co. Down on 8-9 April, but that it contained no working parts.[4]

United Press International described Bernhardt as "an arms dealer with an office in Geneva, Switzerland" and cited unnamed intelligence sources on his role in the deal:

The sources said agents had been tracking the UDA men for weeks. The Protestant militants had made contact with the South African diplomat via Bernhart to try to sell the missile parts for money or arms, the sources said.
The sophisticated missile was stolen in Northern Ireland, the sources said, adding the three UDA men had been in contact with Bernhart since late last year trying to set up the deal.
One part of a Blowpipe's electronic guidance system was stolen from Shorts missile manufacturer in Belfast about a year ago. At the time, Shorts officials said the piece stolen was ineffective without other parts of the missile.[5]

According to the Times, the South Africans were interested in the Blowpipe as a preliminary to obtaining the more advanced Starstreak system. It also reported the following details about Bernhardt:

The Journal du Dimanche yesterday said Mr Bernhart was known to the DST as a self-styled 'adviser' on the sale and purchase of arms. The newspaper said, without citing sources, that in addition to Blowpipe missile parts, the three were also in possession of sections of a Javelin missile when arrested.[6]

The Times also reported that successful arms deals had taken place before the meeting:

British security sources believe Ulster Resistance, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force have been buying weapons, including AK47 assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and pistols, from contacts in South Africa for the past few years.
It is understood that many of the weapons bought had been captured in Mozambique, Angola and Namibia. Security sources said the contacts with South African intelligence had until last week been restricted to purchasing arms.[7]

South Africa's links with Bernhardt were later confirmed by Defence Minister Magnus Malan:

Though never stating the precise nature of the deal or whether it even involved the Blowpipe, Malan confirmed Storm was asked to act as an intermediary between Armscorp and Bernhart. But he said, "it was not known that other persons would be present" at the meeting.
"Armscor did not approach any Irish movement or organization - including the relatively unknown Ulster Defense Associate -- on its own initiative," he said.[8]

Loyalist arms shipment

An article in the Sunday Life reported:

DOZENS of lives were spared because a massive loyalist weapons cache, smuggled in from the Middle East in the late 1980s, included hundreds of rounds of faulty ammunition.
The ammunition smuggled into Northern Ireland in the Lebanese arms consignment was of Chinese origin, and of poor quality.
The weapons, which were divided between the UVF and the UDA and Ulster Resistance, have been reported to have been from South Africa, but the haul came from the Lebanon; the only South African connection was the arms dealer, Douglas Bernhart, who set up the deal between the loyalists and Lebanese businessman, Joe Fawzi.[9]


  1. Mark Urban, Arms dealer held in France traded in London, The Independent, 29 April 1989.
  2. Defense & Foreign Affairs, October, 1985, A British Defense Procurement Guide, SECTION: FEATURE REPORTS; Pg. 19.
  3. Mark Urban, Arms dealer held in France traded in London, The Independent, 29 April 1989.
  4. Irish Militiamen, U.S. Businessman Arrested in Arms Delivery, Associated Press, 22 April 2009.
  5. John Phillips, French arrest four in alleged arms deal, United Press International, 22 April 2009
  6. JAMIE DETTMER, ANDREW MCEWEN, and PHILIP JACOBSON, New missile may have been target; Starstreak, The Times, 24 April 2009.
  7. JAMIE DETTMER, ANDREW MCEWEN, and PHILIP JACOBSON, New missile may have been target; Starstreak, The Times, 24 April 2009.
  8. Jack Reed, South Africa defends circumvention of arms embargo, United Press International, 3 May 1989.
  9. Loyalists at war: Duff ammo saved lives, Sunday Life, 26 September 2004, archived on Micheailin's Irish Republican Fenian Blog, accessed 16 June 2009