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Global arms industry rankings: Sales up 4.6 per cent worldwide and US companies dominate the Top 5

Global arms industry rankings: Sales up 4.6 per cent worldwide and US companies dominate the Top 5
Sukhoi Su-30 fighter production. Photo: Flickr/Robert Sullivan

​​​​​​(9 December 2019) Sales of arms and military services by the sector’s largest 100 companies (excluding those in China) totalled $420 billion in 2018, marking an increase of 4.6 per cent compared with the previous year. This is according to new data released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in the SIPRI Top 100 ranking.

The new data from SIPRI’s Arms Industry Database shows that sales of arms and military services by companies listed in the Top 100 have increased by 47 per cent since 2002 (the year from which comparable data is first available). The database excludes Chinese companies due to the lack of data to make a reliable estimate.

 

​​​​​​US companies dominate the Top 100, with large mergers becoming a visible trend

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 $246 billion, equivalent to 59 per cent of all arms sales by the Top 100. This is an increase of 7.2 per cent compared with 2017.

A key development in the US arms industry in 2018 was the growing trend in consolidations among some of the largest arms producers. For example, two of the top five, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, made multibillion-dollar acquisitions in 2018.

‘US companies are preparing for the new arms modernization programme that was announced in 2017 by President Trump,’ says Aude Fleurant, Director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘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.’

 

Russian companies’ arms sales remain stable

The combined arms sales of the 10 Russian companies in the 2018 ranking were $36.2 billion—a marginal decrease of 0.4 per cent on 2017. Their share of total Top 100 arms sales fell from 9.7 per cent in 2017 to 8.6 per cent in 2018. This can be explained by the higher Top 100 total in 2018 due to the substantial growth in the combined arms sales of US and European companies.

Among the 10 Russian companies listed in the Top 100, the trends are mixed: five companies recorded an increase in arms sales, while the other five showed a decrease. Russia’s largest arms producer, Almaz-Antey, was the only Russian company ranked in the top 10 (at 9th position) and accounted for 27 per cent of the total arms sales of Russian companies in the Top 100. Almaz-Antey’s arms sales rose by 18 per cent in 2018, to $9.6 billion.

‘Arms sales by Almaz-Antey, the largest arms producer in Russia, continued to grow in 2018,’ says Alexandra Kuimova, Researcher for SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘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.’

 

Arms sales increase for French companies but decrease for British and German companies

The combined arms sales of the 27 European companies in the Top 100 increased marginally in 2018, to $102 billion. Arms sales by companies based in the UK fell by 4.8 per cent, to $35.1 billion, but remained the highest in Europe. BAE Systems (ranked 6th) is the world’s largest arms producer outside of the USA. Its arms sales dropped by 5.2 per cent in 2018, to $21.2 billion.

‘Six of the eight UK-based companies listed in the Top 100 reported a reduction in arms sales in 2018,’ says Nan Tian, Researcher for SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme. ‘This was partly due to delays in the UK’s arms modernization programme.’

The combined arms sales of French companies in the Top 100 were the second highest in Europe, at $23.2 billion. ‘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,’ says Diego Lopes da Silva, Researcher for SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

The total combined sales of the four German arms-producing companies in the ranking fell by 3.8 per cent. ‘An increase in deliveries of military vehicles by Rheinmetall, the largest arms company based in Germany, were offset by a drop in sales by shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp,’ says Pieter D. Wezeman, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.

 

Other notable developments in the Top 100

Eighty of the 100 top arms producers in 2018 were based in the USA, Europe and Russia. Of the remaining 20, 6 were based in Japan, 3 in Israel, India and South Korea, respectively, 2 in Turkey and 1 each in Australia, Canada and Singapore.

The combined arms sales of the six Japanese companies remained relatively stable in 2018. At $9.9 billion, they accounted for 2.4 per cent of the Top 100 total.

The three Israeli companies’ arms sales of $8.7 billion accounted for 2.1 per cent of the Top 100 total. Elbit Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael all increased their arms sales in 2018.

The combined arms sales of the three Indian arms companies listed in the Top 100 were $5.9 billion in 2018—a decrease of 6.9 per cent on 2017. The decline is mainly a result of Indian Ordnance Factory’s significant 27 per cent drop in arms sales.

The three companies based in South Korea had combined arms sales of $5.2 billion in 2018, equivalent to 1.2 per cent of the Top 100 total. Their collective arms sales in 2018 were 9.9 per cent higher than in 2017. Bucking the trend, however, was LIG Nex1, whose sales fell by 17 per cent in 2018. The shipbuilder DSME, which was ranked in 2017, dropped out of the Top 100 in 2018.

Arms sales by Turkish companies listed in the Top 100 increased by 22 per cent in 2018, to $2.8 billion. Turkey aims to develop and modernize its arms industry and Turkish companies continued to benefit from these efforts in 2018.

 

​​​​​​The SIPRI Arms Industry Database

The SIPRI Arms Industry Database was created in 1989. At that time, it excluded data for companies in countries in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. The current version contains data from 2002, including data for companies in Russia. Chinese companies are not included in the database because of a lack of available data on which to make a reasonable or consistent estimate of arms sales dating back to 2002.

‘Arms sales’ are defined as sales of military goods and services to military customers domestically and abroad. Unless otherwise specified, all changes are expressed in real terms. All changes between 2017 and 2018 are based on the list of companies ranked in 2018 (i.e. the annual comparison is between the same set of companies). Longer-term comparisons (e.g. between 2002 and 2018) are based on the sets of companies listed in the respective year (i.e. the comparison is between a different set of companies).

The SIPRI Arms Industry Database, which presents a more detailed data set for the years 2002–18, is available on SIPRI’s website.

 

This is the first of three major data launches in the lead-up to the publication of SIPRI’s flagship publication in mid-2020, the annual SIPRI Yearbook. Ahead of this, SIPRI will release its international arms transfers data (details of all international transfers of major arms in 2019) as well as its world military expenditure data (comprehensive information on global, regional and national trends in military spending).

 

Media contacts

For information and interview requests contact SIPRI Communications Officer Alexandra Manolache (alexandra.manolache@meridianautoloans.com, +46 766 286 133) or SIPRI Communications Director Stephanie Blenckner (blenckner@meridianautoloans.com, +46 8 655 97 47).

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