SIPRI: Global arms industry flourishing despite COVID

A $531-billion business: The new SIPRI report shows that the world’s top 100 arms producers have continued to increase sales — even in the pandemic year of 2020 and despite the global economy contracting.

Lockdowns, crumbling supply chains, jittery consumers: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about massive economic slumps around the world. One sector, however, has proved immune to the virus: the arms industry. This is confirmed by the latest report on the world’s 100 largest arms manufacturers by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

SIPRI researcher Alexandra Marksteiner told DW that she was especially surprised by the data from 2020, the first year of the pandemic: “Even though the IMF put global economic contraction at 3.1%, we saw that the arms sales of these top 100 companies increased nonetheless — we saw an overall increase of 1.3%.”

The sales of the top 100 arms manufacturers totalled $531 billion (€469 billion) in 2020, more than the economic output of Belgium. Some 54% of this was accounted for by the 41 US companies in SIPRI’s top 100. The main companies in the industry are US-based: Lockheed Martin alone sold more than $58 billion worth of weapons systems last year —  a sum bigger than the GDP of Lithuania.