By Julia Harte, Center for Public Integrity
The United States remains the largest exporter of weaponry to the world, with Russia hanging onto second place and China grabbing ahold of third, according to the latest annual survey by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which ranks sales of weapons based on their value, quantity, and function.
The market they are supplying is expanding. Arms sales over the past five years are 16 percent higher than they were from 2005 to 2009, SIPRI reported, signaling growing demand for major weapons.
The armaments are unsurprisingly being poured into some of the most volatile regions, with India — which has border disputes with Pakistan and perennial competition with China — the top importing country for the past five years.
Russia has been the top supplier to India since 2010, but the U.S. is racing to carve out a larger piece of the Indian market, the SPIRI report makes clear. The U.S. exported more weapons to the sub-continent in 2013 than it had in all years since 1955 put together. Last year, the U.S. sold India more arms than it sold any other country except Saudi Arabia.
Those sales were not impeded by the most recent State Department human rights survey, which claimed that India has significant problems with “police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption at all levels of government, leading to denial of justice; and separatist, insurgent, and societal violence.”
In addition to exporting the highest volume of arms in the past five years, the U.S. has had more client countries than any other exporter: 94 in total.
This diverse clientele reflects the idea that “‘we can’t be everywhere, but maybe our weapons should,’” said Rachel Stohl, a senior associate with the Stimson Center, which hosted the launch of SIPRI’s data on Monday.
Aircraft account for 61 percent of all American arms sales, and the largest piece of that — according to SIPRI — is the F35 combat aircraft. So far, more than than 600 F-35A combat aircraft have been ordered or selected by Australia, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Turkey, and the UK, bolstering future years’ U.S. arms exports, according to the report.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, has been in production since 2006 but continues to be beset by technological problems. A March 2015 report by the Defense Department’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation on the status of the aircraft’s development described deficiencies in the aircraft’s software, vulnerabilities to engine and fuel fire, and electrical issues.
The second-most frequently exported weapons in the U.S. are missiles, which account for 14 percent of all U.S. arms sold since 2010. The largest share of those missiles have gone to Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Canada, and Israel.
China edged out Germany to become the third biggest weapons exporter during the 2010-2014 period by increasing its sales a whopping 143 percent over 2005-2009, compared to increases of 37 percent for Russia and 23 percent for the United States.
Most of China’s arms went to South Asia, with Pakistan and Bangladesh importing more than half of all Chinese major arms since 2010.