US, China Dominated Arms Market In 2019

This file photo shows attendees holding hand-guns equipped with suppressors during the National Rifle Association (NRA) 2019 Annual Meetings in Indianapolis, Indiana. (AFP Photo)

United States (US) and Chinese companies dominated the global arms market in 2019, while the Middle East made its first appearance among the 25 biggest weapons manufacturers, a report by the SIPRI research institute said Monday.

The US arms industry accounted for 61 percent of sales by the world's "Top 25" manufacturers last year, ahead of China's 15.7 percent, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Total sales by the "Top 25" rose by 8.5 percent to US$361 billion, or 50 times the annual budget of the United Nations' (UN) peacekeeping operations.

Six US companies and three Chinese firms were in the top 10, rounded out by Britain's BAE Systems in seventh spot.

"China and the United States are the two biggest states in terms of global arms spending, with companies cut to size," said Lucie Beraud-Sudreau, director of SIPRI's arms and military expenditure programme.

The US has dominated the market for decades, but for China - whose companies' sales rose by almost five percent in 2019 - "this increase corresponds to the implementation of reforms to modernise the People's Liberation Army underway since 2015," she said.

US companies Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics clinched the top five spots, while China's AVIC, CETC and Norinco held spots six, eight and nine. US group L3Harris Technologies was in 10th place.

"Europe remains a bit dispersed...but if you combine the European companies together you could have European companies the same size" as US and Chinese manufacturers, Beraud-Sudreau noted.

Airbus (European, 13th in the ranking) and Thales (French, 14th) can meanwhile boast of having the strongest international presence - each is represented in 24 countries, ahead of US Boeing.

"European companies are more internationalised" than others, Beraud-Sudreau said.

Breakthrough In The Mideast

For the first time, a company from the Middle East made it into the "Top 25": EDGE, of the United Arab Emirates, was formed by the consolidation of some 25 defence entities in 2019.

In 22nd spot, EDGE "is a good illustration of how the combination of high national demand for military products and services with a desire to become less dependent on foreign suppliers is driving the growth of arms companies in the Middle East," SIPRI researcher Pieter Wezeman said in the report.

SIPRI also noted that French group Dassault had shot up from 38th to 17th place, boosted by exports of its Rafale fighter jets in 2019.

Meanwhile, two Russian companies were also in the "Top 25", Almaz-Antey in 15th spot and United Shipbuilding in 25th. 

Beraud-Sudreau noted that Russian companies were in better shape several years ago thanks to a vast modernisation programme for its military, but business had since "slowed sharply".

Sanctions imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Crimea and a drop in natural gas and energy prices had impacted Russia's economy, she said.

"Russia has had to slow down its plans to modernise its military equipment... As a result, there have been fewer orders from the Russian state, fewer new projects launched, and a drop in revenue," she said. - AFP