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US is the world's top arms supplier

March 11, 2019

The Middle East can't get enough of America's big guns, according to a new report. German-made weapons, particularly submarines, were also a hit with foreign buyers in recent years.

F/A-18C Hornet
Image: Navy Visual News/mc2 Alan Gragg/

International transfers of heavy weapons increased by almost 8 percent in the 2014-2018 period compared with 2009-2013, according to a report published by the Sweden-based Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on Monday.

The United States bolstered its status as the world's biggest arms supplier, transferring more than a third of all weapons sold during the past five years.

Read more: Saudi coalition uses German arms in Yemen

SIPRI's findings

  • The United States exported 36 percent of all arms sold in the 2014-2018 period. That was six percentage points higher than in the 2009-2013 period.
  • Washington sold weapons to just under 100 countries, with half of its sales to the Middle East.
  • Russia was the world's second-largest exporter. It sold weapons to 48 countries and accounted for 1 in 5 global arms deliveries.
  • The top five arms exporters — the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China — supplied 3 in 4 weapons sold in the 2014-2018 period.
  • Germany increased its international arms sales by 13 percent, with German-built submarines enjoying particularly strong demand abroad.
  • Saudi Arabia, a US ally, received nearly 1 in 4 US weapons that were sold in the 2014-2018 period. It also imported more weapons than any other country, raking in 12 percent of global imports.
  • Arms sales to the Middle East almost doubled in the 2014-2018 period compared with 2009-2013.

Read more: SIPRI: US dwarfs rest of world in armaments production

What kind of weapons were sold? SIPRI counted heavy weapons such as military jets, missiles and tanks but ignored transfers of small arms like handguns and rifles.

Why did the Middle East import so many weapons? Increased conflict in the region has increased demand for Western weapons among rich countries, SIRPI expert Pieter Wezeman said.

How did SIRPI collect the data? Experts looked at publicly accessible sources such as newspapers and government reports to collect data on each country's transfers.

amp/aw (AFP, dpa)

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