Sales of arms and military services by the industry’s 100 largest companies worldwide continued to increase in 2020, despite the pandemic, totaling $531 billion, according to new data released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
This figure marks an increase of 1.3% in real terms compared with the previous year.
The arms sales of the companies in 2020 were 17% higher than in 2015 – the first year for which SIPRI included data on Chinese firms – and this marked the sixth consecutive year of growth in arms sales by the top 100.
Commenting on the increase despite the pandemic-caused contraction of the global economy, Alexandra Marksteiner, a researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme, said, “The industry giants were largely shielded by sustained government demand for military goods and services.”
“In much of the world, military spending grew and some governments even accelerated payments to the arms industry in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” Marksteiner said.
The United States continued hosting the highest number of companies ranked in the top 100 as the arms sales of 41 U.S. companies totaled $285 billion with a rise of 1.9% year-over-year.
Since 2018, the top five companies in the ranking have all been based in the U.S., the report underlined.
Accounting for 13% of the total, the arms sales of five Chinese companies included in the top 100 rose 1.5% to $66.8 billion in the same period.
Chinese firms were behind the U.S. companies and ahead of companies from the United Kingdom, which made up the third-largest share.
Benefiting from the country’s military modernization programs and focus on military-civil fusion, Dr. Nan Tian, a SIPRI senior researcher, said, “They have become some of the most advanced military technology producers in the world.”
The U.K. companies made up the third-largest share in the last year's figure as their arms sales hit $37.5 billion in 2020, up by 6.2% compared to 2019. The seven British companies recorded arms sales of $37.5 billion, while arms sales by BAE Systems – the only European firm in the top 10 – increased by 6.6% to $24 billion.
The 26 European arms companies in the top 100, meanwhile jointly accounted for 21% of total arms sales, or $109 billion.
“Aggregated arms sales by the six French companies in the top 100 fell by 7.7%,” said Dr. Lucie Beraud-Sudreau, director of the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.
“This significant drop was largely due to a sharp year-over-year decline in the number of deliveries of Rafale combat aircraft by Dassault. Safran’s arms sales grew, however, driven by increased sales of sighting and navigation systems,” Beraud-Sudreau added.
Russian companies' arms sales decreased by 6.5% on an annual basis, reaching $26.4 billion last year.
“This marks a continuation of the downward trend observed since 2017, when arms sales by Russian companies in the Top 100 peaked,” the report read.
Meanwhile, Aselsan was the only Turkish defense industry company, ranking 51st, in the top 100 with arms sales worth $2.2 billion in 2020 – a surge of 12% in comparison to the previous year.