Which Countries Are Selling The Most Weapons?

The international arms trade is big business with just five countries dominating 75 percent of the global market. So who are the top suppliers?

Billions of dollars worth of weapons change hands each year, but global arms sales are dominated by just a few major players. Jules Suzdaltsev has the story in today's Seeker Daily report.

Not surprisingly, the world's largest exporter of weapons is the country that outspends the rest of the world in defense: the United States. From 2011 to 2015, the U.S. produced a full one-third of global arms exports, according to The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

It's a booming business. Six of the world's eight largest-defense industry companies are based in the U.S. The largest, Lockheed Martin, makes about 80 percent of its sales through arms manufacturing and defense. You won't see them at the local gun show, though. Most of these weapon sales take place via high-level arrangements with foreign governments in countries like South Korea, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

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Russia is the world's second-busiest exporter of arms and, not coincidentally, home to the second most powerful army in the world. Russia buys a lot of weapons from itself -- that is to say that the military purchases from its own domestic arms manufacturers. It's estimated that about a fifth of Russia's total manufacturing workforce is in the arms and defense business.

Russian weapons account for roughly a quarter of global sales. Like U.S. weapons, Russian arms go all over the world, but the country's main two buyers are China and, perhaps surprisingly, India -- the largest importer of weapons in the world.

China, meanwhile, has its own robust weapons manufacturing pipeline, accounting for about 6 percent of global trade in recent years. The country is actually a big player in both buying and selling weapons. According to an interesting report in The Economist, China tends to equip its own military with Russian arms, then sell the weapons it produces to dozens of low-income and middle-income countries.

Other major weapon producers include France, Germany and the U.K.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

SIPRI: International arms transfers

BBC: Arms trade: Exports grow as world crises grip

The Economist: Measuring the arms merchants

Music Track Courtesy of APM Music: "Responsible"

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