Arms sales rise for first time in five years

US firm Lockheed Martin remains world’s largest producer

UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been met with widespread condemnation
(Image credit: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Global arms sales have risen for the first time in more than five years, as rising geopolitical tensions fuel a surge in defence spending.

According to The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s annual assessment of the global arms market, sales by the world’s 100 biggest weapons companies rose to $374.8bn in 2016, an increase of 38% in 15 years.

The group said the growth in sales “was expected and was driven by the implementation of new national major weapon programs, ongoing military operations in several countries and persistent regional tensions that are leading to an increased demand for weapons”.

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Growing fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula meant that South Korean producers recorded the largest percentage growth in sales of any developed country. Yet the list of top suppliers worldwide remains dominated by US firms, which accounted for over half of all arms sales last year.

US defence firm Lockheed Martin retained its position as the world’s largest producer after sales surged by 11%. With Donald Trump vowing to boost the Pentagon’s budget and refurbish the US nuclear arsenal, “that growth is likely to continue”, says CNN.

Kremlin mouthpiece RT blamed the resurgence of global arms sales on an increase in “US military operations overseas” - but ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and tensions in the South China Sea have also supported the increase.

Total arms sales by western European companies remained stable at $91.6bn. However, the think tank highlights clear divergences among the largest arms-producing European countries, specifically citing the 500% increase in British arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the past two years.

The findings did not include Chinese defence firms, but a separate report by SIPRI published earlier this year said the country was among the world’s top five exporters, contributing to the biggest five-year growth in arms sales since the cold war.

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