The top ten arms exporting countries in 2018

8 May 2019 (Last Updated June 9th, 2020 10:49)

The world’s ten biggest arms exporting countries made armament transfers worth more than $25bn in 2018. Army-technology.com lists the top ten arms exporting countries based on Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s (SIPRI) estimates of values of arms transferred in 2018.

The top ten arms exporting countries in 2018
United States is the world’s biggest exporter of weapon systems. Image courtesy of the U.S. Army.

Arms exports by country in 2018: Ranking the ten biggest

10. Italy

9. Israel

8. United Kingdom

7. China

6. South Korea

5. Spain

4. Germany

3. France

2. Russia

1. USA

10. Italy – $611m

Top ten arms exporting countries
Italy exported weapon systems worth $611m in 2018. Image courtesy of Copyleft.

UAE, Turkey, Algeria and Israel were the biggest importers of arms from Italy in the last five years. The nation’s exports mainly constitute ASW aircraft, trainer aircraft, combat helicopters and naval vessels.

Italian arms exports in 2018 were primarily driven by joint development programmes such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), FREMM, and Horizon-class frigates.

Major domestic defence equipment manufacturers in Italy include Leonardo, Fincantieri‎, MBDA, Elettronica, Beretta, and Iveco Defence Vehicles.

9. Israel – $707m

Top ten arms exporting countries
Israeli arms exports mainly constitute missiles, UAVs, armoured vehicles, ammunition, artillery and air defence systems. Image courtesy of Zachi Evenor.

Israel exported weapons worth $707m in 2018, becoming one of the world’s biggest arms exporters. Its major defence importers during 2014-2015 were India, Azerbaijan, and Vietnam.

Missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ammunition, artillery, armoured vehicles, air defence systems, defence electronics, and small arms form a major part of Israeli defence exports.

The nation’s defence exports are backed by domestic manufacturers, including Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), IMI Systems, and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI).

8. United Kingdom – $741m

Top ten arms exporting countries
Saudi Arabia is one of the major importers of arms from the United Kingdom. Image courtesy of Sgt Mark Webster RLC/MOD.

The UK arms exports in 2018 were primarily driven by the sales of aircraft, vessels and missiles.

Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, US, Oman, China, Qatar, Brazil, South Korea and Japan were the biggest importers of UK arms during the last five years.

BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce Holdings, Babcock International, Qinetiq, Kelvin Hughes, GKN Aerospace Services, BMT Defence Services, and MBDA UK are the major exporters based in the UK.

7. China – $1.04bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
Chinese arms exports accounted for $1.04bn in 2018. Image courtesy of Tyg728.

Chinese arms exports in 2018 were mainly fuelled by the sales in the Asia and Oceania regions, followed by Africa and the Middle East.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria were the major importers of Chinese arms, including JF-17 Thunder/FC-1 combat aircraft, CH-3 UAVs and C-802 anti-ship missiles during the last five years.

State-owned companies such as China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC), China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO), China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC) and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) contribute to the majority of exports from China.

6. South Korea – $1.08bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
Iraq and Turkey were the major importers of South Korean weapon systems during 2014-2018. Image courtesy of Republic of Korea Armed Forces.

South Korean arms exports in 2018 were valued at $1.08bn, posing a tough competition to China as the main Asian exporter of arms. Iraq and Turkey were the major arms importers of South Korean weapons during the last five years.

The T-50 Golden Eagle trainer/combat aircraft, KT-1 Woong Bee trainer, and K-9 Thunder self-propelled gun systems form a major part of the nation’s defence exports.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Huta Stalowa Wola (HSW), Hyundai Rotem, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) are the major South Korean defence exporters.

5. Spain – $1.18bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
Europe’s third biggest arms exporter Spain transferred weapons worth $1.18bn in 2018. Image courtesy of Benjamín Núñez González.

Arms exports of $1.18bn in 2018 made Spain the third biggest arms exporter in Europe. Aircraft account for the majority of Spain’s exports, followed by naval vessels and sensor systems.

The country exported aircraft, naval vessels and armoured vehicles, including C-295 and A-330 MRTT aircraft, Hobart-class destroyers, and Ajax (Scout-SV) to Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Malaysia and Egypt, between 2014 and 2018.

Navantia, General Dynamics European Land Systems, Indra Sistemas (Indra), and Sociedad Anonima De Electrónica Submarina (SAES) are the major Spanish arms exporters.

4. Germany – $1.27bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
Armoured vehicles and naval platforms formed a major portion of German arms exports in 2018. Image courtesy of Alan Wilson.

Germany’s weapons exports in 2018 were mainly driven by the sales of naval platforms and armoured vehicles.

The country exported OPV-80 patrol vessels, Type-214 submarines, Leopard main battle tanks (MBTs), and MTU diesel engines to countries in Asia and Oceania, Europe, and the Middle East regions.

German Naval Group, Lürssen, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), Rheinmetall Defence, and Diehl Defence are the major contributors to the German arms exports.

3. France – $1.76bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
France exports armoured vehicles, combat aircraft and naval vessels. Image courtesy of Gertrud Zach/U.S.Army.

French arms exports in 2018 were driven by the sales of combat aircraft and naval vessels. The country’s key defence exports include the Rafale fighter jet, NH-90 helicopter, Gowind-2500 frigate, MILAN anti-tank missile, and the MICA SAM system, among others.

France delivered major weapon systems to 78 countries during the last five years, among which Egypt was the biggest importer, followed by India and Saudi Arabia.

French defence exports are supported by its domestic arms manufacturers such as Airbus, Safran, Thales, Eurocopter, Dassault Aviation, Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie (CNM), DCNS, Nexter Systems, and Arquus.

2. Russia – $6.4bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
Russia exported arms worth $6.4bn to multiple countries worldwide in 2018. Image courtesy of Valeri Pizhanski.

Russia, the world’s second biggest defence exporter, transferred arms worth $6.4bn in 2018. Its weapons exports to India and Venezuela suffered a decline during the year.

Russia transferred major weapons to 48 nations during the last five years, with India, China, and Algeria being the biggest importers. Su-30MK fighter, T-90S tank, Mi-17 helicopter, and BMP-3 IFV are the popular export products of Russia.

Domestic defence manufacturers, including JSC PO Sevmash, Almaz-Antey, Sukhoi, Uralvagonzavod, Antonov, and MiG Aircraft Corporation, contribute to the majority of Russian arms exports.

1. United States of America (USA) – $10.5bn

Top ten arms exporting countries
United States is the world’s biggest exporter of weapon systems. Image courtesy of the U.S. Army.

The total value of the arms exported by the US was $10.5bn in 2018, while the nation closed foreign military sales (FMS) contracts worth $55.6bn during the year for transferring arms to its allies.

Major weapon types exported were combat aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), anti-tank missiles, naval gun systems and missiles, sensors, engines, and guided weapon systems. Combat aircraft accounted for more than half of the total arms exported by the US during 2014-2018.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon Company, and General Dynamics Corporation produce a majority of the arms exported by the US.