Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia becomes world's biggest arms importer

Experts say Middle East is largest world market for arms, with huge jump in US military exports to the region
An arms fair in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has overtaken India to become the world’s biggest importer of arms in 2014, a study found on Sunday.

The figures show that Saudi Arabia now spends more on importing weapons than India, a country whose population is over 40 times larger than that of the Gulf heavyweight.

Riyadh’s spending on arms imports grew by 54 percent from 2012 to 2013, and experts say demand for weaponry in the Gulf kingdom will continue to grow.

"Growth in Saudi Arabia has been dramatic and, based on previous orders, these numbers are not going to slow down," according to Ben Moores, a senior defence analyst with IHS, which produced the report.

Riyadh is expected to spend $9.8 billion on arms in 2015, a year in which one in every $7 spent on arms imports globally will come from Saudi Arabia.

Military expenditure accounted for an estimated 35 percent of Saudi Arabia’s total budget in 2014.

The US has consistently been one of the largest suppliers of weapons to the Gulf heavyweight – US profits from the trade jumped by over 100 percent between 2012 and 2013, ending on an all-time high of over $5.5 billion.

US arms exports to the Middle East as a whole jumped by 40 percent from $6 billion in 2013 to $8.4 billion in 2014, the report found.

Amid heightened security concerns over the rise of Islamic State, analysts say the arms export market to the Middle East is expected to grow unabated.

"The Middle East is the biggest regional market and there are $110 billion in opportunities in the coming decade,” according to Moores.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.