Institute: China Joins List of Top Five Arms Exporters

 - March 29, 2013, 10:00 AM
A Pakistan air force JF-17 Thunder was displayed at the 2011 Dubai airshow. The fighter was jointly developed by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. (Photo: Bill Carey)

China broke into the ranks of the five largest arms exporting countries for the first time since the end of the Cold War, displacing the UK in the volume of arms deliveries, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). The UK dropped from the list for the first time since at least 1950, the Swedish institute said.

In its “Trends in International Arms Transfers” report issued on March 18, Sipri said the U.S. supplied 30 percent of global arms exports between 2008 and 2012, followed by Russia (26 percent), Germany (7 percent), France (6 percent) and China (5 percent). The five largest weapons importers during the period were India, China, Pakistan, South Korea and Singapore.

The volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 17 percent higher in the period 2008-2012 than in 2003 to 2007, the institute said. The flow of arms to Asia and Africa increased between the two periods; arms flows to Europe and the Middle East declined.

The volume of Chinese arms exports rose by 162 percent between the two survey periods, and China’s share of the international volume increased to 5 percent from 2 percent. Seventy-four percent of Chinese arms exports went to Asia and Oceania (Pacific Ocean islands) during the most recent period; 13 percent went to Africa. “Pakistan, which accounted for 55 percent of Chinese arms exports, is likely to remain the largest recipient of Chinese arms in the coming years due to large outstanding and planned orders for combat aircraft, submarines and frigates from China,” according to the report.

Asia and Oceania received 45 percent of U.S. arms exports, followed by the Middle East at 27 percent and Europe at 18 percent. Aircraft made up 62 percent of the volume of total U.S. deliveries in 2008-2012. Among the deliveries were 49 combat aircraft, including the first two Lockheed Martin F-35s supplied to the UK. Iraq and Afghanistan each received 4 percent of U.S. arms exports, and Iraq ordered 36 F-16s.

Russia supplied 65 percent of arms exports to Asia and Oceania; 17 percent to Africa and 9 percent to the Middle East. Aircraft accounted for 46 percent of deliveries. “Russia has contributed significant materiel to the arms build-up in Southeast Asia, delivering an estimated 37 Su-30MK and Su-27S combat aircraft, along with a variety of missiles, to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam,” Sipri said. Russia exported an estimated 343 Mi-17 helicopters to 26 states; nearly half to Asia and Oceania (166), followed by countries in the Americas (57), the Middle East (48), Europe (43) and Africa (29).

In a separate study issued in February, Sipri reported that arms sales by the world’s largest weapons manufacturers totaled $410 billion in 2011, a 5-percent decrease from the previous year in constant dollars. However, arms sales by the top 100 companies have increased by 51 percent in real terms since 2002, the institute said. The top five companies in value of arms sales in 2011 were, in order, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems, General Dynamics and Raytheon.

Sipri’s list does not include China-based companies “due to lack of available data.”