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Russia overtakes UK to become world's second biggest arms producer

A US airman in the cockpit of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft
A US airman in the cockpit of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft Copyright REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Copyright REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
By Alice Tidey
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Russia has become the world's second biggest arms producer, relegating the UK to third place − but the US continues to dwarf even its closest competitors.


Russia has replaced the UK as the world's second biggest arms producer − but the US continues to dwarf even its closest competitors, a think tank revealed on Monday.

Sales from the top 100 arms-producing companies totalled $398.2 billion (€348.4 billion) in 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institutute (SIPRI).

It is the third year in a row that arms sales have grown, with this year's total representing a 2.5 per cent rise on 2016 and a 44 per cent increase on 2002.

Russia climbs to second place

One of the key developments last year was Russia's ascension from third to second place − a position that had been held by the UK since 2002.

"Russian companies have experienced significant growth in their arms sales since 2011," Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher at SIPRI, explained.

"This is in line with Russia's increased spending on arms procurement to modernise its armed forces," he added.

In total, Russian producers sold $37.7 billion (€32.9 billion) of arms, accounting for 9.5 per cent of the total 100

US cements number one position

Arms sales by American companies accounted for 57 per cent of the combined Top 100 − totalling $226.6 billion (€198.2 billion).

"US companies directly benefit from the US Department of Defense's ongoing demand for weapons," Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI's Arms and Miltary Expenditure Programme, said.

Five US companies were listed in last year's top 10 and 42 featured in the top 100.

Lockheed Martin remains the world's largest arms producer, with sales of $44.9 billion (€39.3 billion), and widened the gap between it and its nearest rival, Boeing, from $11 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2017.


The UK remained the largest arms producer in Western Europe last year, with arms sales of $35.7 billion (€31.2 billion). It is also the only European country to have a company − BAE Systems − in the top five.

Twenty-four Western European companies were listed in the Top 100. Their combined arms sales of $94.9 billion (€83 billion) accounted for nearly a quarter (23.8 per cent) of the leading 100 companies.

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