The global defence trade reached a record-breaking $65bn in 2015, fuelled by Middle East and Southeast Asia

Francesca Washtell
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US Army soldiers from 2-8 Infantry, 2nd
The US is the largest exporter of defence materials worldwide (Source: Getty)

In another year blighted by conflict in which the world became quantifiably less peaceful, the global defence trade grew to a record-breaking $65bn (£46bn) in 2015.

What's more, this figure is set to rise to $69bn this year, driven by the Middle East and Southeast Asia, according to figures released today by IHS.

The market for weapons and other defence supplies grew by $6.6bn between 2014 and 2015, with the Middle East being the largest importing region and the US remaining the largest exporter.

"The global defence trade market has never seen an increase as large as the one we saw between 2014 and 2015," Ben Moores, a senior analyst at IHS, said.


The Middle East handled around $21.6bn in deliveries of defence equipment. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imported over half of this amount between them, at $11.4bn, which represents 17.5 per cent of the global total worth of defence systems and was up from $8.6bn in 2014.



1. Saudi Arabia – 9,325

2. India – 4,331

3. Australia – 2,306

4. Egypt – 2,268

5. South Korea – 2,181

6. Iraq – 2,141

7. Unknown – 2,080

8. United Arab Emirates – 2,075

9. UK – 1,831

10. Algeria – 1,674

"The combined value of Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s defence imports is more than all of Western Europe’s defence imports combined,” Moores said.

"The US, Canada, France and the UK are the main exporters of defence equipment to the Middle East and beneficiaries of this spending boom."

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Elsewhere, total defence spending in the Asia-Pacific region also accelerated, as states bordering the South China Sea boosted defence spending. Between 2009 and 2016, defence imports rose 71 per cent in the region.

IHS also noted a significant change in the top five importing countries, with Taiwan, China and Indonesia all dropping out of the top five and Australia, Egypt and South Korea replacing them.


Meanwhile, the US continued to top the table of the world's largest exporters in 2015, though it registered "dramatic" growth in its deliveries, growing another 10 per cent since 2014 and accounting for 35 per cent of the world total.

The country exported $12.9bn worth of defence materials in 2009 but this almost doubled by 2015 to $22.9bn, with $8.8bn alone directed to the Middle East.

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IHS said the US' dramatic rate of growth cannot be tied to any one particular factor but, in future, the total may exceed $30bn as deliveries of the F-35 begin to ramp up - although such a rise could also be derailed by oil prices hitting the Middle East market.



1. United States – 22,961

2. Russian Federation – 7,447

3. Germany – 4,779

4. France – 4,774

5. UK – 3,896

6. Canada – 3,114

7. Italy – 2,140

8. Israel – 2,113

9. China – 1,736

10. Spain – 1,323

IHS also noted that France has doubled its backlog of orders from $36bn in 2014 to $55bn, meaning that $55bn worth of defence equipment has yet to be exported. This increase means that France will soon overtake Russia as the second-largest global defence equipment exporter.

The annual Global Defence Trade Report covers the entire weapons and defence systems market except for munitions and small arms; although anything under 57mm caliber was not included in the study.