News Release

Global Defence Exports Expected to Decline for First Time Ever, Jane’s by IHS Markit Says

Global Defence Exports Expected to Decline for First Time Ever, Jane’s by IHS Markit Says

US holds on to position as top exporter; Middle East outspends all of Western Europe combined, but shrinking backlog points to long-term global contraction

July 19, 2017

Weakening defence export order backlog points to a contraction in the market by 2018, according to the annual Global Defence Trade Report released today by IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO), a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions. The report examines trends in the global defence market across 65 countries and is based upon 40,000 programs from the Jane’s Aerospace, Defence & Security’s Markets Forecast database.

Defence trade deliverables grew substantially in 2016. Markets expanded by $4.3 billion to hit $62.5 billion, as imports rose despite global defence spending falling between 2010 and 2013. However the total export backlog - orders placed but yet to be delivered - has fallen by around five percent and is on track to decline rather than stabilize over the coming three years.

“For the first time we are forecasting a decline in our expectations for the global defence export market. This is happening for a number of reasons including falling energy prices, increasing domestic production and the world simply pausing for breath after such a long run of increases,” said Ben Moores, senior analyst, Jane’s by IHS Markit.

“Traditionally deliveries have slipped to the right so it could well be that the fall in the total market comes in 2018. This would be the first fall since our records began in 2009,” Moores said.

Key findings from the Global Defence Trade Report:

  • Middle East countries imported $21 billion in defence equipment in 2016 - one third of the entire global market - and will import at least $22 billion annually for the next four years.
  • Saudi Arabia increased its lead as top global importer, now importing nearly three times as much as its closest rival, India. This dominance is set to continue for at least five years with further large aviation, vehicle and naval orders.
  • The US remained the highest exporter in 2016, supplying $23.3 billion worth of military goods.
  • Military imports throughout Western Europe rose from $7.9 billion in 2013 to $8.9 billion in 2016. This climb takes western European imports back to 2010 levels.
  • Large order backlogs in Asia, including Japan ($14 billion), South Korea ($12 billion) and Taiwan ($13 billion).
  • Significant rise in defence export opportunities to Vietnam, Indonesia, Taiwan, Iraq and Egypt.

Middle East’s spending spree continues

The largest Middle Eastern defence importers – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Iraq – remained among the top importers in the world for 2016, importing a total of $15.2 billion in defence systems. This figure is up from $9.9 billion in 2014, and represents more than all of Western Europe’s imports combined.

“Saudi Arabia’s 2016 imports grew from $4.9 billion to $8.3 billion – an increase that is three times more than the entire Sub-Saharan African market,” Moores said. “As the Middle East has assets against which it can borrow until oil prices recover, we expect to see sustained growth in defence spending for the next few years.”

Based on the existing order backlog, Jane’s forecasts that this region will continue to import an annual average of $22 billion in equipment over the next four years, before dropping off sharply after 2020.

US dominates export market

The US remained the highest exporter in 2016, increasing its relative market share at the expense of Russia to supply $23.3 billion worth of goods and equipment in 2016, compared with $21.5 billion in 2014. Its primary export strength is in its aerospace products; set to continue with strong orders in place for its F-35 program.

For the third year in a row, Saudi Arabia was the primary recipient of American military equipment in 2016. Although the US’s 10-year backlog remains strong, political uncertainty in countries such as Saudi, UAE and Qatar means there is a possibility that some of these projects may be cancelled.

Western Europe falls short of 2009 outlay

Military imports throughout Western Europe rose from $7.9 billion in 2013 to $8.9 billion in 2016. This slight climb takes Western European imports back to 2010 levels but still some way off 2009’s $12 billion peak.

“While we don’t foresee a return to pre-2008 import commitments, Western Europe finally saw a return to growth in defence spending in 2015 which will translate into sustained deliveries in the next couple of years,” Moores said.

Western European exports fell from $16.3 billion in 2009 to $14.9 billion in 2013, but increased notably to hit $17.8 billion in 2016. Germany, France and Sweden all enjoyed sizeable increases in export levels over the past year, primarily in military aerospace markets.

Eastern Europe holds strong backlog

“Military imports for European states West of Russia totalled $900 million in 2016, and the delivery backlog for these states currently stands at $4.6 billion for the next five years, confirming our earlier forecasts,” Moores said.

Russia, the region’s leading exporter and the world’s second largest exporter, saw a slight decline in 2016 to $6.3 billion. However, this is not indicative of further decline in the short term, as Russia has a strong backlog out to 2020.

Asian imports grow despite Chinese cuts

Military equipment imports to East Asia increased from $10.4 billion in 2015 to $12.8 billion in 2016. China has been cutting import deliveries over the last six years but this has been counter balanced by South Korea, Taiwan and Japan which have all seen large increases over the same time frame.

“There remains a slight chance that South Korean exports will overtake China in 2017 depending on delivery schedules of various programmes but in the longer term China has a bigger overall backlog,” Moores said.

The data

Top defence importers (in millions USD)

      2016               2017
Saudi Arabia     8,276         Saudi Arabia     7,561
India     3,066         UAE     3,566
UAE     2,437         India     3,551
Egypt     2,367         Australia     3,409
South Korea     2,364         Egypt     2,830
Iraq     2,156         United Kingdom     2,268
Australia     2,138         Algeria     2,212
United Kingdom     2,088         Qatar     2,098
Algeria     1,855         South Korea     2,026
Japan     1,582         China     1,735
Canada     1,570         Turkey     1,707
Qatar     1,539         Japan     1,604

Top defence exporters (in millions USD)

      2016               2017
United States     23,258         United States     26,867
Russian Federation     6,336         Russian Federation     7,226
Germany     4,359         France     5,217
France     4,303         Germany     4,357
United Kingdom     4,157         United Kingdom     4,000
Israel     2,425         Israel     2,124
Canada     2,067         Canada     1893
China     1,441         Pan European     1,887
Spain     1,439         Spain     1,494

South China Sea imports (in millions USD)

Importer       2009       2016       2017
Taiwan       517       1,419       1,537
China       1,004       1,228       1,735
Indonesia       1,061       1,272       1,445
Malaysia       789       763       636
Vietnam       434       1,069       470
Philippines       115       478       625

Fastest growing opportunities over the past year

New Zealand

Top global import opportunities over the coming decade

Saudi Arabia         $27bn
India         $22bn
UAE         $14bn
Indonesia         $9bn
Algeria         $9bn

Copyright © IHS Markit 2017

About the Global Defence Trade Report

The report was created using the IHS Markit Aerospace, Defence & Security Markets Forecast database, a publicly sourced global forecasting tool that tracks current and future programs from the bottom up, looking at deliveries and funds released to industry rather than budgets. The study covers production, R&D, logistic support and service revenues where there is an export.

The entire market is covered except for munitions and small arms; however, anything under 58mm caliber has not been included in this study. The study only tracked programs with a primarily military function, removing homeland security and Intelligence programs. Constant US dollars are used as the study’s base. For additional information, visit:

About IHS Markit (

IHS Markit (Nasdaq: INFO) is a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide. The company delivers next-generation information, analytics and solutions to customers in business, finance and government, improving their operational efficiency and providing deep insights that lead to well-informed, confident decisions. IHS Markit has more than 50,000 key business and government customers, including 85 percent of the Fortune Global 500 and the world’s leading financial institutions. Headquartered in London, IHS Markit is committed to sustainable, profitable growth.

IHS Markit is a registered trademark of IHS Markit Ltd and/or its affiliates. All other company and product names may be trademarks of their respective owners © 2017 IHS Markit Ltd. All rights reserved.


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