947 US arms sales

In my newspaper a little note making an amazing claim: The United States of America are producing more arms than the rest of the world combined. This is the context in which we have to see Donald Trump’s reluctance to condemn Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi: Saudi Arabia is one of the US’s biggest weapons clients, and arms sales are an important resource for the US (as they are for Russia, France, Germany, China, UK, Spain, Israel, Italy, Holland etc.)


I just simply couldn’t believe the figure of 57%, so I researched the source and fired of an email to SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.


in my newspaper today an article that quotes SIPRI as the US accounting for 57% of world-wide arms sales. This is a shocking number and I tried to have it confirmed by other media outlets, for instance the BBC - however, they provide a different number: “… the US now accounts for 34% of all global arms sales”, a numbers also provided by SIPRI (see graph). There seems to be a large discrepancy. Can you please comment. 


Carsten Burmeister


Watch this space ... I have an essay WEAPONRY in my book en.light.en.ment

This is the response I got ...

Dear Carsten

The figure of 57 per cent refers to total arms sales of US companies. To a very large extent,US arms companies sales are to the US Department of Defense. Indeed, most of the weapons produced by US companies are bought buy the US DOD. Some of the companies' sales are also exports, but in general, they do not represent the largest share of their sales. 

The 34 per cent figure you mention is specifically the share of the US in total arms transfers for the period 2013-2017. These figures cover exclusively arms transfers, e.g. exports and imports from the country. The 34 per cent share of total is US exports. The country does not import significantly, as it produces most of its arms domestically.

I hope this is clearer, 

Best regards,

Aude Fleurant
Director, Arms and military expenditure programme
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
Signalistgatan 9, Solna 169-72

So, to be clear, the above graph is about global arms exports, whereas the 57% figure is about production of arms, where most - or at least a large part of - American produced arms are sold to American defence forces and remain in American ownership. And while America produces more arms than the rest of the world combined, they account for a third of the international arms trade. 

Phew, statistics, eh!