by N. Peter Kramer
The arms race continues despite the pandemic. The US remains the dominant achieved last year in the full corona crisis. 470 billion euros: this is the turnover that the 100 largest arms manufacturers achieved last year in the full corona crisis. An increase of 1.3%, and a record. It is extra remarkable when you consider that the world economy shrank by 3.1% last year. The turnover of the arms trade rose for the 6th consecutive year and is now 17% higher than in 2015, according to the annual calculations of the Swedish think tank SIPRI. In that year, it concluded data from the Chinese arms manufacturers in its annual report for the first time.
The 5 major Chinese arms producers in the ranking are making a remarkable catch-up. They are all state-owned and tasked with making the vast country largely self-sufficient in arms production. Take China’s largest arms producer Norinco, which ranks number 7. It strengthened its investments in new technologies and contributed to the development of the military-civilian satellite navigation system BeiDu. The Chinese Casic, number 12, has quickly become a major producer of rockets and space systems. ‘In recent years, Chinese arms manufacturers have been able to take advantage of the large-scale military modernisation programs launched by Beijing’, says the Swedish Peace Institute. ‘As a result, they are now among he most advanced technological weapons manufacturers in the world.’
This is precisely the reason that US weapon giants have started investing heavily in research and development in the field of ‘next generation’ weapon systems. These are weapons in which robotics, cloud technology, artificial intelligence and space intelligence play a major role. The US still leads the ranking of the largest arms manufacturers. In the top 100 are 41 US companies, with well-known names such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. But their technological lead over Russian and Chinese rivals is seriously shrinking.
This leads to an arms race in space, among other fields. Many major US arms giants have merged or bought military or civilian space companies in the hope of expanding their portfolio of high-tech weapons. Lockheed Martin, he world’s largest arms maker, announced last year the $4.4 billion acquisition of rival Aerojet Rocketdyne, 75th in the ranking. Raytheon Company and United Technologies Corporation merged to become number 3 in the ranking.
Looking at turnover, the gap between the US and the rest of the world is still gigantic. China counts now for 13% of all sold arms, what makes Beijing better than number 3 of the list, the United Kingdom.