Saudi Arabia became the largest importer of defense equipment last year, surpassing India, consultants IHS Inc. said.
Inbound shipments jumped 54 percent in 2014 when Saudi Arabia also became the top trading partner with the U.S., the biggest exporter, Englewood, Colorado-based IHS said in a report Sunday. Saudi Arabia will import 52 percent more defense equipment this year, to $9.8 billion, it said. The Boeing Co. was the top company exporter last year, followed by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co., according to the report.
Global defense trade rose for a sixth consecutive year to $64.4 billion, with demand from emerging economies for military aircraft, IHS said. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the fourth-largest importer, spent $8.6 billion on defense systems last year, more than Western Europe combined, IHS said.
“Growth in Saudi Arabia has been dramatic,” Ben Moores, senior defense analyst at IHS Aerospace, Defence & Security, said in the report. “An escalation of regional tensions in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific” helped drive global demand, he said.
India and China followed Saudi Arabia in the list of top importers. Russia’s exports are expected to drop from a record in 2015 with major programs closing and falling oil prices affecting clients such as Iran and Venezuela, IHS said.