Gov’ts help arms firms avoid pandemic slump
The world’s biggest weapons manufacturers largely avoided the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and recorded a growth in profits last year for the sixth year in a row, according to a report published on Dec. 6.
Governments around the world have continued to buy arms during the pandemic and some also passed measures to help their big weapons firms, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
The 100 top weapons firms saw their profits rise by 1.3 percent compared to 2019 to a record $531 billion, despite the global economy contracting by more than 3 percent.
“Military manufacturers were largely shielded by sustained government demand for military goods and services,” said SIPRI researcher Alexandra Marksteiner in the institute’s annual assessment of arms companies.
“In much of the world, military spending grew and some governments even accelerated payments to the arms industry in order to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.”
The top five arms firms were all from the United States. Lockheed-Martin, which counts F-35 fighter jets and various types of missiles among its bestsellers, consolidated its first place with sales of $58.2 billion.
Britain’s BAE Systems, in sixth position, was the highest-placed European firm, just ahead of three Chinese groups.
Turkey’s Aselsan ranked 51st with sales of $2.2 billion in 2020, up 12 percent year on year.
“The rise of China as a major arms producer has been driven by its aim to become more self-reliant in weapons production and by the implementation of ambitious modernization programs,” the report said.
While China’s arms sales have expanded, they still lag U.S. and British firms, accounting for a total of 13 percent of the top 100 arms sales in 2020.
Sales by the five Chinese firms in the top 100 totaled an estimated $66.8 billion in 2020, up 1.5 percent on the previous year.
Of the top-producing countries, only France and Russia saw their firms’ sales decline last year.
The institute said the firms had benefited from the broad injection of cash into economies, as well as specific measures designed to help arms companies such as accelerated payments or order schedules.