In 2014, Saudi Arabia overtook India to become the world’s biggest weapons importer. That year global defence trade rose for the sixth straight year to a record $64.4 billion, research company IHS said in an annual defence trade report (IHS is a provider of global market and economic information).

According to the IHS report: “The growth in supplies was due to expanding demand from emerging economies for military aircraft and rising tensions in the Middle East and Asia Pacific”.

The United States remained the top defence exporter in 2014, ahead of Russia, France, Britain and Germany, a top-five ranking unchanged from 2013. The top five importers in 2014 were Saudi Arabia, India, China, the UAE and Taiwan. The 2013 rankings were India, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Taiwan and China. Opportunities for defence exporters are therefore mostly in the Middle-East – the biggest regional market – and Asia.

The report says that “Saudi Arabia and UAE together imported $8.6 billion in defence systems in 2014, more than the imports of Western Europe combined. The biggest beneficiary of the Middle Eastern market was the United States, with $8.4 billion worth of Middle Eastern exports in 2014 after $6 billion in 2013.”

“Growth in Saudi Arabia has been dramatic and rose 54 per cent between 2013 and 2014, and based on planned deliveries imports will grow 52 per cent to $9.8 billion in 2015″ IHS said. “One out of every $7 spent on defence imports in 2015 will be spent by Saudi Arabia”.

“Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are part of a U.S.-led coalition involved in air strikes on Islamist militants who have carved out an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The militants have vowed to topple the governments of Western-allied countries in the Middle East. The IHS survey does not include munitions, small arms, homeland security or intelligence programmes.”