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Global arms sales increased by 5% in 2018, SIPRI report finds

GLOBAL arms sales increased by nearly 5 per cent in 2018, principally driven by US firms and President Donald Trump’s modernisation of the country’s military, according to a new report published today.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) report showed the combined total turnover of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers in 2018 was an incredible US $420 billion (£320bn), an annual increase of 4.6 per cent.

Although China was not included in the latest study, with SIPRI stating that there was insufficient data, its researchers estimated that seven of the country’s companies would make it to the top 100, with at least three in the top 10 arms manufacturers.

But it was US companies that dominated the market, accounting for a whopping 59 per cent, with a turnover of $246bn ((£187bn) — an increase of 7.2 per cent from 2017. It was way ahead of second-placed Russia on 8.6 per cent, which was just ahead of Britain, which took 8.4 per cent of the market share, led by BAE Systems.

“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 $148bn and 35 per cent of total top 100 arms sales in 2018,” the report stated.

SIPRI director Aude Fleurant explained: “US companies are preparing for the new arms modernisation programme that was announced in 2017 by President Trump.

“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.”

Turkey’s increase in military spending reflected its expanding military-industrial base and its bid to become a major regional power.

Military electronics producer Aselsan (ranked 54th) increased its arms sales by 41 per cent in 2018, to $1.7bn (£1.29bn), while arms sales by Turkish Aerospace Industries (ranked 84th) rose slightly (by 0.5 per cent) to $1.1 billion.

Earlier this year SIPRI found arms sales to the Middle East had increased dramatically, up by 87 per cent in 2018. Saudi Arabia became the world’s largest importer in 2014-18, with an increase of 192 per cent over the preceding five years.

In a speech earlier this month the leader of Britain’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn pledged that, if elected, his government will develop “a peace and conflict-prevention fund and invest an extra £400 million [$513m] to expand our diplomatic capacity and increase oversight of arms exports to ensure we’re not fuelling conflicts, as in Yemen and in Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

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