Global arms sales up 4.6% in 2018: SIPRI

Harry Lye 10 December 2019 (Last Updated January 20th, 2020 14:14)

The world’s 100 biggest defence manufacturers saw their arms and military services sales increase by 4.6% to $420bn worldwide in 2018.

Global arms sales up 4.6% in 2018: SIPRI
Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth Texas, production facility. Credits: Lockheed Martin.

The world’s 100 biggest defence manufacturers saw their arms and military services sales increase by 4.6% to $420bn worldwide in 2018.

Data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) showed US companies continuing to dominate the market and head the institute’s top 100 ratings.

According to SIPRI, the top ten arms sellers worldwide are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Airbus, Leonardo, Almaz-Antey, and Thales.

SIPRI found that total arms sales for the top 15 defence companies totalled almost £245bn in 2018.

SIPRI said: “For the first time since 2002, the top five spots in the ranking are held exclusively by arms companies based in the United States: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics.

“These five companies alone accounted for $148 billion and 35 per cent of total top 100 arms sales in 2018. Total arms sales of US companies in the ranking amounted to $246bn, equivalent to 59%of all arms sales by the top 100. This is an increase of 7.2%compared with 2017.”

SIPRI identified mergers and acquisitions as a key driver in the US defence industry’s continuing dominance of the market.

SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme director Aude Fleurant said: “US companies are preparing for the new arms modernisation programme that was announced in 2017 by President Trump.

Fleurant added: “Large US companies are merging to be able to produce the new generation of weapon systems and therefore be in a better position to win contracts from the US Government.”

SIPRI also found that Russian arms companies were continuing to have stable sales, but Russia’s total share of the top 100 sales fell from 9.7% in 2017 to 8.6% in 2018. Almaz-Antey, the maker of the S-400 missile system, was the only Russian company to make it into the top ten defence sellers.

SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme researcher Alexandra Kuimova said: “Arms sales by Almaz-Antey, the largest arms producer in Russia, continued to grow in 2018.

“This increase was due not only to strong domestic demand but also to continued growth in sales to other countries, particularly of the S-400 air defence system.”

The S-400 has achieved success on the export market, most notably being purchased by Turkey which resulted in the company being ejected from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 programme.

SIPRI also found that while French arms sales had increases, British and German sales had fallen. SIPRI’s arms and military expenditure programme researcher Nan Tian said: “Six of the eight UK-based companies listed in the Top 100 reported a reduction in arms sales in 2018.

“This was partly due to delays in the UK’s arms modernisation programme.”

Another SIPRI researcher Diego Lopes da Silva said that French growth was in part due to the success of Dassault Aviation.

Lopes da Silva explained: “The overall growth in arms sales of the six French companies in the SIPRI Top 100 was mainly the result of a 30 per cent increase in sales by combat aircraft producer Dassault Aviation”

The vast majority of the top 100 arms producers were from the US, Europe and Russia filling 80 spots. The listing does not include Chinese companies as SIPRI says there is a lack of consistent data available.

The first SIPRI arms database was released in 1989 and has tracked the growth and sales of the industry since.