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US, China ruled global arms market in 2019: SIPRI

Dharvi Vaid
December 7, 2020

Weapons companies from the US and China dominated the global arms market in 2019, according to a new report. Meanwhile, the Middle East entered the list of the world's 25 biggest arms manufacturers for the first time.

 A US soldier seen in the cockpit of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft.
Image: Reuters/P. Rossignol

The US and China carried the weight of the global arms market in 2019, while the Middle East made its debut among the "top 25" weapons manufacturers, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). 

US-based arms companies took the top five spots in 2019, with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics recording a total of $166 billion (€137 billion) in annual arms sales, the data released by the Sweden-based think tank on Monday showed.

Read more: SIPRI: Weapons boom shows no signs of slowing

Overall, 12 US firms featured among the sector's 25 biggest manufacturers, constituting 61% of the combined weapons sales of the top 25. 

Rise of China

China came second, accounting for 16% of arms sales last year. Four Chinese arms-producing companies appeared in the top 25 ranking, with three in the top 10. 

Read more: German arms exports - what you need to know

The arms sales by the country's four biggest companies soared by 4.8% in 2019 as against $56.7 billion in 2018. The list included: Aviation Industry Corporation of China (6th); China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (8th); China North Industries Group Corporation (9th); and China South Industries Group Corporation (24th).

"Chinese arms companies are benefiting from military modernization programs for the People's Liberation Army," Nan Tian, a senior researcher at SIPRI, said in astatement.

The think tank added that there could be several other Chinese companies big enough to rank on its top 25 list but it was not possible to include them due to lack of "comparable and sufficiently accurate data."

Middle East enters the club

In a first, a Middle Eastern weapons manufacturer found itself in the top 25 ranking. 

EDGE, a firm from the United Arab Emirates, was on the 22nd spot, accounting for 1.3% of the total arms sales of the 25 giants. 

According to Pieter Wezeman, a senior researcher with SIPRI's  Arms and Military Expenditure Program, the firm's ranking reflected how a high national demand for military products and the aspiration to become less dependent on foreign providers was "driving the growth of arms companies in the Middle East."

Read more: US approves $600 million sale of armed drones to Taiwan

Rafale deliveries boost Dassault's ranking

It was also the first time that France’s Dassault Aviation Group featured among the top 25 arms companies. 

The firm also accounted for the largest percentage increase in yearly arms sales at 105%. 

SIPRI attributed the push in Dassault's ranking to a spike in the export of its Rafale fighter aircraft.

The combined sales of arms and military services by the 25 companies grossed $361 billion in 2019, an 8.5% increase from 2018.