The growing threat from North Korea and demand for advanced fighter jets helped spur the first increase in global arms sales in six years, a leading research institute said Monday.
Sales of weapons and military services by the world’s largest defense contractors totaled $374.8 billion in 2016, a 1.9 percent increase from the previous year, according to the most recent international arms industry data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
It was the first year of growth by the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies since 2010, when the figure was $432 billion, SIPRI said.
U.S. companies on the list increased their share of arms sales to 57.9 percent, with a combined total of $217.2 billion in 2016, boosted by military operations overseas and the acquisition of large weapon systems by other countries, according to the report.
That growth was led by world’s biggest arms producer, Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp., which saw its sales climb 10.7 percent.
“With the acquisition of helicopter producer Sikorsky in late 2015 and higher delivery volumes of the F-35 combat aircraft, Lockheed Martin reported significant growth in its arms sales in 2016,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure Program.
South Korea, meanwhile, took a step toward its goal of becoming a major arms exporter, dominating arms sales by emerging producers that also includes Brazil, India and Turkey.
South Korean companies, which occupied eight spots in the top 100, saw a 20.6 percent overall increase in arms sales and total sales amounting to $8.4 billion, SIPRI said.
“Continuing and rising threat perceptions drive South Korea’s acquisitions of military equipment, and it is increasingly turning to its own arms industry to supply its demand for weapons,” said Siemon Wezeman, a senior researcher at SIPRI. “At the same time, South Korea is aiming to realize its goal of becoming a major arms exporter.”
The U.S.-allied nation increased its defense spending by 7 percent to nearly $40 billion in next year’s budget.
President Moon Jae-in has stressed the urgency in improving South Korea’s ability to defend against the North, which has test-fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test this year.
“We must realize superiority over North Korea based on overwhelming power to ensure our own peace and security,” he said Friday.
SIPRI said Japan’s largest arms companies — including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi Electric Corp. — experienced sharp falls last year.
The database, which is based on sales of military goods and services to military customers, doesn’t include Chinese companies that are large enough to rank among the top 100 but lack accurate and comparable data.
© 2017 the Stars and Stripes
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.