Global Arms Sales Continue to Surge

The world’s main arms industries sold more weapons in 2018 than in the previous year. Especially in the US, the numbers are rising exponentially.

The world’s top 100 defense companies have increased their global arms sales by nearly five percent over the past year. In 2018, they sold armaments and military services worth a total of $ 424 billion (€ 383 billion) according to the Stockholm-based peace research institute Sipri and its statement released on Monday. The amount represents an increase of 4.6 percent compared to the previous year. Since 2002, sales have increased by almost 47 percent overall.

The world’s leader in sales remains the United States. For the first time since 2002 – the year Sipri has started to utilize comparable data including material from Russia – corporations based in the United States occupy the top five positions among the leading defense companies with sold defense assets worth a total of $ 149 billion (€ 134 billion) combined. In total, US companies make up $ 248 billion (€ 224 billion), or 59 percent of all sales in the Top 100, an increase of 7.2 percent from 2017.

Researchers see an important trend in the USA in the fact that larger arms companies take over smaller companies in order to prepare for the arms modernization program President Trump announced in 2017. The mergers will allow the companies to produce the new generation of weapons systems, and thus be in a better position to win contracts from the US government.

Arms sales from Russia, on the other hand, remained almost unchanged, with the ten Russian companies listed in the top 100 sold goods and services worth a total of $ 36.6 billion (€ 33 billion), corresponding to a minimal decline of 0.4 percent. Five of the companies reported growth, five losses.

Besides the United States and Russia, Europe accounts for 24 percent of global arms sales. The 27 European arms producers on the list sold goods worth $ 103 billion (€ 93 billion), a slight increase of 0.7 percent.

By contrast, the figures for the four listed German companies decreased by 3.8 percent overall. Increasing deliveries of military vehicles to the German Armed Forces are counteracting a current decline in shipbuilding sales. As a result, Germany’s world’s arms sales of 2 percent rank behind Italy, Japan and Israel, but ahead of India and South Korea. It is noteworthy that Airbus is listed as a “trans-European” company in the Sipri evaluation due to being based in more than one European country.

Meanwhile, sales of British defense companies decreased by 4.8 percent, inter alia, due to delays in the arms modernization program. Despite a rise in French companies by 2.4 percent, the UK remains Europe’s number one weapon vendor.

The Sipri report did not take into account the goods of companies from China as these still lack sufficient data for reliable estimates. Despite the imposed secrecy by the Chinese government, it is estimated that China’s share remains infinitesimal at this stage since the country had to establish and stabilize other industries first. In the future, however, China will likely become an additional major player on the arms market.