American weapons makers continue to dominate the global arms trade, accounting for over half of all the weapons sold in the world last year while Russia continued to gradually expand its market, a new study shows.
The new international arms industry data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday showed that global weapons sales reached $398.2 billion last year.
Raking in the highest profits were 42 American companies with overall sales of $226.6 billion, a whopping 57 percent of all arms deals signed by the world’s Top 100 arms makers. That’s a two-percent increase in sales compared to 2016.
The US-based company Lockheed Martin remained on top of the 100 largest military companies, with sales amounting to $44 billion — no other company in the industry could get close.
In comparison, Germany’s largest defense group, Düsseldorf-based Rheinmetall AG, didn’t even sell a tenth of that amount. With total sales capping out at $3.4 billion, Rheinmetall only ranked 25th on the list.
According to SIPRI, Lockheed Martin’s success was largely due to the US military’s need for newer and more advanced weapon systems, including the F-35 Lightning stealth warplanes and the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The company is also working with the Pentagon to come up with a response to China and Russia’s plans to develop an expensive “hypersonic missile” that can easily bypass conventional missile defense systems.
“US companies directly benefit from the US Department of Defense’s ongoing demand for weapons,” wrote Aude Fleurant, the director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Program.
Boeing was the world’s second-largest arms manufacturer during the same period, having enjoyed a boost in sales after US President Donald Trump commissioned the company to build two Air Force One jets for his travels under a $3.9 billion contract.
The American head of state has repeatedly called for increasing the military spending and renovating America’s weapons.
Russia comes second
Lining up behind the US in a distant second position was Russia, which had 10 companies in the Top 100 list and managed to knock the UK down to the third position.
Together, the Russian companies accounted for 9.5 percent of global weapons sales last year, which translates into $37.7 billion, SIPRI said.
Almaz-Antey, Russia’s state-owned company which mainly produces anti-aircraft systems, became the first ever Russian company to enter the top 10. The company increased its sales by 17 percent in 2017 to $8.6 billion.
President Vladimir Putin says Russia is now decades ahead of its rivals in military prowess.
According to SIPRI, Moscow’s interest in modernizing its arsenal was the main reason for the jump.
“Russian companies have experienced significant growth in their arms sales since 2011,” SIPRI senior researcher Siemon Wezeman said in a statement.
“This is in line with Russia’s increased spending on arms procurement to modernize its armed forces.”
UK slips to third
Despite losing the second place to Russia, the UK remained the largest weapons manufacturer in western Europe with sales of $35.7 billion, followed by France.
British arms maker BAE Systems was the only European manufacturer to make it into the top 5 in the world.
Besides involvement in the construction of the European fighter aircraft Eurofighter Typhoon, the UK-based company has enjoyed increasing sales through its dealings with Saudi Arabia over the past years. Riyadh has been using the weapons against the people of Yemen since March 2015.
The UK banks heavily on arms sales as a source of revenue after leaving the European Union.
The UK has almost doubled its arms deals with repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia despite international outrage.
Making their way up in the list were Turkish companies, which increased their sales by 24 percent.
The rising numbers indicated Ankara’s “ambitions to develop its arms industry to fulfill its growing demand for weapons and become less dependent on foreign suppliers,” Pieter Wazeman, another SIPRI researcher, said.
India, meanwhile, accounted for 1.9 percent of all sales with a total of $7.5 billion.
SIPRI’s report excluded Chinese companies due to a lack of available data.