A Swedish think tank says the world’s 100 largest arms companies have been largely shielded from the effects of the pandemic.
Sales of arms and military services by the world’s top 100 arms companies hit a record $ 531 billion in 2020, an increase of 1.3% in real terms from the previous year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The Swedish think tank said 2020 marked the sixth consecutive year of sales growth for the top 100 companies, and came even as the global economy contracted. Overall sales were 17% higher than in 2015, when they first included data on Chinese companies.
“Industry giants were largely protected by sustained government demand for military goods and services,” Alexandra Marksteiner, researcher with SIPRI’s military spending and weapons production program, said in a statement Monday. “In much of the world, military spending has increased and some governments have even accelerated payments to the arms industry in order to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. “
Companies in the United States continue to dominate the industry, with total sales of $ 285 billion from 41 companies accounting for about 54% of all arms sales among the top 100 companies. The top five companies in the ranking since 2018 are all based in the United States, SIPRI said.
Arms sales by major Chinese companies amounted to around $ 66.8 billion in 2020, 1.5% more than in 2019.
Chinese companies accounted for 13% of total Top 100 arms sales, followed by the UK, which held the third largest share.
“In recent years, Chinese arms companies have benefited from the country’s military modernization programs and are focusing on military-civilian fusion,” said Nan Tian, senior researcher at SIPRI. “They have become one of the most advanced producers of military technology in the world.”
The 26 European arms companies in the Top 100 together accounted for 21% of total arms sales, or $ 109 billion, the think tank said.
The seven UK companies recorded arms sales of $ 37.5 billion in 2020, up 6.2% from 2019. BAE Systems’ arms sales – the only European company in the top 10 – rose 6.6% to $ 24 billion.
Sales of French companies, meanwhile, fell 7.7% against a backdrop of lower deliveries of Rafale fighter jets by Dassault, according to the think tank.
Arms maker Thales also saw sales drop 5.8%, which it blamed on pandemic-induced disruptions. Other companies have also reported supply chain disruptions and delivery delays.
Russian arms sales, meanwhile, fell for the third year in a row, SIPRI said.
The total sales of the nine Russian companies ranked in the Top 100 rose from $ 28.2 billion in 2019 to $ 26.4 billion in 2020, with Russian companies accounting for 5% of total Top 100 arms sales.
Other countries with Top 100 arms companies included Israel, Japan, India and South Korea. Sales of the four South Korean companies rose 4.6% from 2019 to $ 6.5 billion, think tank says