The Top 10 Biggest Weapon Buyers in the World

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIRP) has just released an updated data about the ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers’. The comparison of the ranks for the biggest exporters

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIRP) has just released an updated data about the ‘Trends in International Arms Transfers’. The comparison of the ranks for the biggest exporters and importers of conventional weapons was compared between the periods of 2003-2007 and 2008-2012.

In the data for the largest arms importers in the world, the regions of Asia and Oceana has the highest percentage of volume of weapon imports accounting to 47% followed by the Middle East with 17% while Europe accounts to 15%. The Americas’ volume of weapon imports is 11% and Africa with only 9%.

Although Africa has the least percentage, there were significant increases in imports by African states. Between the periods of 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, the increase is 104%. North Africa’s Algeria and Morocco were the biggest buyers in the region. In the Sub-Saharan African region, Uganda and Sudan were the second and third largest importers. In West Africa, Nigeria was the largest importer of weapons.

SIRP only presented the top five largest arms importers in the word while the rest of the rankings were not given unless the country showed a substantial rise from its place in the rankings. According to an analysis, countries with the largest weapon imports mean they could not produce their own weapons due to the restrictions enforced by military treaties. In addition, the capacity to develop their own military equipment is limited except for China who is now starting to produce its own weapons and vehicle armors.

Below is the list of the top 10 weapon importers in the world. Note that ranks 7 to 9 were based on the rankings per region since SIRP only mentioned two spots, sixth and tenth, in passing.

10 United Kingdom

The United Kingdom ranked 14th on the list of the biggest weapon buyers in the world between the periods of 2008-2012 and 2003-2007. There was an 18% increase in volume of imports between these two periods. The U.S.A. is the biggest supplier of weapons to the UK accounting to 70% while only 27% to the European Union member states. Forty-one percent (41%) of these weapons are missiles. The UK is now planning to supply surplus arms to countries in Central Asia and Afghanistan. 

9 Venezuela

Venezuela is the 13th biggest weapon buyer in the world and the largest importer in South America. The country has an on-going rearmament program and purchased a substantial number of weapons from Russia (66%), Spain (12%) and China (12%). Venezuela purchased BMP-3 and BTR-80 armored vehicles, S-125 Pechora-2M SAM systems, T-72 tanks and 2S23 Nona-SVK self-propelled guns from Russia.

8 Morocco

From the 69th spot, Morocco rose to the 12th spot with an large increase in weapon imports.  From 2008-2012, Morocco purchased 24 F-16C combat aircrafts from the U.S.A., 27 MF-2000 combat aircrafts from France and three SIGMA frigates from the Netherlands and 54 Type-90-2 tanks from China.

7 Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the tenth biggest weapon buyer between the periods of 2008-2012. In addition, the country is also one of the world’s most densely armed nations. It was predicted that the country can become one of the top five arms importers in 2013-2017. Majority of its military weapons are imported from Europe and North America. Saudi Arabia purchased 48 Typhoon combat aircrafts from the UK and 152 F-15SA from the U.S. Its armored vehicles come from Canada, France and the U.S.A. Meanwhile, Germany’s sale of armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia was controversial because the weapons could be used in internal violence.

6 Algeria

Between the periods of 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, Algeria’s increase in arms imports increased by 277% placing from 22nd to 6th. Ninety-three percent of its arms imports come from Russia delivering weapons such as 44 Su-30MKA combat aircrafts, 2 Project-636 submarines, S-300PMU-2 long-range surface-to-air missile systems and 185-T90S tanks. In addition to these Russian weapons, Algeria also purchased 2 MEKO-A200 frigates from Germany and 3 F-22A frigates from China.

5 Singapore 

Singapore became the fifth largest weapons buyer between the periods of 2008-2012 accounting for 4% of global arms imports. Singapore’s population is just 5.1 million and because of the tension in the South China Sea, the country is prioritizing its weapon defense system. Forty-three percent (43%) of its weapons were bought from the United States. Singapore’s Ministry of Defense received one of the biggest budgets in the government department where 6% of the country’s gross domestic product is allocated on defense.

4 South Korea

South Korea accounted for 5% of global arms imports between 2008 and 2012. However, their orders don’t include nuclear and chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. The country’s biggest imports come from the United States (77%), Germany (15%) and France (5%).

3 Pakistan

India’s neighbor, Pakistan, is the third biggest arms importer ordering a substantial number of combat aircrafts such as 50 JF-17s from China and 30 F-16s. The country remains to be the largest buyer of Chinese weapons. It has large planned orders in China for combat aircrafts, submarines and frigates. The United States’ import share is 27% while Sweden accounts to 5%.

2 China

From 2003-2007, China was the biggest weapon buyer in the world until its import fell by 47% and placed second only to India in 2008-2012.The communist country procured several new locally produced weapon systems such as the first Chinese aircraft carrier and the Chinese mass-produced combat aircrafts J10 and J11. The production of its own weapon systems only shows that China is decreasing its dependence on arms imports. Yet in 2012, China imported 55 Mi-17 transport helicopters from Russia.

1 India

India tops the list for the biggest weapon buyer in the world. Between 2008- 2012, the country’s arm imports were 109% higher than China. There was 59% increase in arm imports from 2008-2012 than in 2003-2007. India has improved its long-range military capabilities with the import of over 100 Russian Su-30MKI combat aircraft, 3 A-50EhI airborne early warning craft, Russian Akula nuclear-powered submarine and the first of 8 American P-8I anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

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The Top 10 Biggest Weapon Buyers in the World