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Saudi Arabia Has Become the World’s Biggest Arms Importer

Saudi army

According to IHS Jane’s, Saudi Arabia has displaced India as the world’s biggest importer of defense equipment. Saudi arms imports increased 54 percent between 2013 and 2014, reaching $6.46 billion. To put the scale of the Middle East’s booming weapons trade into perspective, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imported $8.6 billion of military equipment in 2014 – that’s more than the defense imports of Western Europe combined.

With the Kingdom reinforcing its armed forces to counter regional threats such as Iran and the Islamic State, weapons shipments are set to increase even further in volume. Ongoing deliveries of advanced weapons systems including F-15 and Typhoon fighter jets are going to boost imports 52 percent in 2015 to $9.9 billion. Worldwide, India is in second place with defense imports in 2014 amounting to $5.57 billion. China completes the top three, spending $2.6 billion on arms imports in 2014.

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Statistics and facts about defense spending and arms trade

If recent statistics are anything to go by, future developments in the worldwide trend of military expenditure are not expected to make hopeful reading for those who advocate global disarmament. Despite the austere fiscal policies that have been adopted in many of the world’s developed nations, military expenditure has suffered little, and in nations like India and China – countries that have in recent years enjoyed periods of economic growth – decisions in military spending seem to be indicative of a strategic choice in a long-term bid for regional and global influence, often cited by watchers as being the inevitable rise of Asia.

Despite future expectations around the shift in the balance of global power, the United States has, for now at least, secured its place at the top. With its vast spending budget, the United States has long occupied the role of primary determinant in the current worldwide trend of military expenditure, a role that comes with the territory of being top of the countries with the highest military spending. With a comfortable lead of over half a trillion US dollars, the United States accounts for close to half of the entire world’s military expenditure. And despite the fact that the global financial crisis and the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a decline in its spending, forecasts of U.S. defense outlays up to 2022 show that this change is set to be temporary.

While in the past many nations relied on the United States and its status as the world’s sole superpower for the defense of their sovereignty, many now rely on it as the world’s leading weapons exporting nation. The trade in arms, in terms of both exports and imports, is a very lucrative business. It is a very controversial practice often resulting in protests, especially with regards to the sale of arms to nations whose regimes are known to use them in the oppression of their own citizens. It remains to be seen, however, how stable the future is for the United States. Around three-quarters of all cyber attacks carried out in 2012 were targeted at the United States, a statistic that serves as a stark reminder that the wars of the future may not be decided on military might alone, but on the extent of capabilities to be shown within the spheres of cyberspace.


This text provides general information. Statista assumes no liability for the information given being complete or correct. Due to varying update cycles, statistics can display more up-to-date data than referenced in the text.


This chart shows the top defence importers worldwide in 2014

Infographic: Saudi Arabia Has Become The World's Biggest Arms Importer | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista



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