We’re Number One

There has been a surge in arms sales by China to sub-Saharan African nations, most notably cheap assault rifles and ammunition, in possible violation of U.N. sanctions, the Washington Post reported. 

But globally the United States remains the world's leading arms salesman in all categories, accounting for more than three quarters of the worldwide market with $44.3 billion in sales last year, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).  Russia was a distant second at $4.8 billion, followed by France and China. Israel was 11th in sales agreements signed.

Among America's biggest customers are the Persian Gulf countries worried about Iranian's regional ambitions.  Saudi Arabia spent $33.4 billion on 84 advanced F-15s and upgrades for 70 others plus dozens of Apaches and Blackhawk helicopters and the accompanying missiles, spare parts, maintenance and training plus assorted other weapons; the United Arab Emirates spent $4 billion on THAD air defense systems and helicopters, and Oman put in orders for 18 F-16s for $1.4 billion.

Most of these systems will be delivered over several years.  In terms of 2011 worldwide arms deliveries, the United States was first, followed by Russia, Britain and Israel fourth, ahead of France, Italy, Germany, Spain and China, according to the CRS report.

Israeli systems are popular because they are battle tested and the country's reputation for innovation and advanced technology, but there are still a number of countries that won't deal with the Jewish state, at least not openly on high profile systems. Israeli customers include the United States, India and many European NATO members as well as smaller countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Israel is, of course, a top U.S. customer, spending most of the $3.1 billion in annual grant military assistance here. It took deliveries on $3.8 billion worth of American arms (plus $200 million from Russia) between 2008 and 2011.  Other top US customers for that period were Saudi Arabia $5.9 billion, Egypt $3.9 billion, Iraq $2.6 billion, UAE $2 billion, Kuwait $1.3 billion.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.