Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt rank in top 10 largest arms importers over past 5 years

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Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt ranked among the top ten largest importers of weapons and arms in the world in the five years through 2022, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) think-tank said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia ranked as the second largest arms importer globally in 2018-2022. The Kingdom received 9.6 percent of all arms imports during that period. Saudi arms purchases during 2022 included aircraft, air defense systems, armored vehicles, missiles, naval weapons, sensors and ships.

Saudi Arabia’s main suppliers and their share of its total imports: US (78 percent), France (6.4 percent) and Spain (4.9 percent). The US arms transfers to Saudi Arabia included “the delivery of 91 combat aircraft with hundreds of land-attack missiles and over 20,000 guided bombs,” according to SIPRI’s report.

The Kingdom’s overall imports decreased by 8.7 percent when comparing between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022.

Qatar ranked as the third largest arms importer over the past five years, climbing up from being ranked sixth over the prior five-year period. Its imports increased by 311 percent when comparing the data between the two time periods.

Qatar’s purchases during 2022 included aircraft, air defense systems, armored vehicles, missiles, naval weapons, sensors and ships. The Gulf country’s main suppliers and their share of its total imports: US (42 percent), France (29 percent) and Italy (14 percent). Its imports included “36 combat aircraft from France, 36 from the USA and 8 from the UK, as well as 3 frigates from Italy,” SIPRI said.

Egypt ranked as the six largest arms importer over the past five years; its ranking dropping from being ranked third over the prior five-year period as its overall imports were down by 5.3 percent when comparing between the two time periods. During the last year, Egypt purchased aircraft, missiles, naval weapons, sensors and ships.

Russia’s arms exports to Egypt increased by 44 percent when comparing the data between the two time periods of 2013-2017 and 2018-2022, making it Russia’s third largest recipient. The Arab country’s main suppliers and their share of its total imports: Russia (34 percent), Italy (19 percent) and France (19 percent).

The top 10 largest importers of arms in the Middle East were: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq.

The UAE’s arms imports over 2018-2022 were 38 percent lower than in 2013-2017, making its ranking drop out of the top 10 importers to being ranked 11th globally. SIPRI highlighted: “Notable arms imports in 2018–22 included hundreds of air defense missiles and over 20,000 guided bombs from the US.”

The highest majority of arms and weapons imports to the Middle East came from the US (54 percent), followed by France (12 percent), Russia (8.6 percent) and Italy (8.4 percent). SIPRI data showed that those imports included more than 260 advanced combat aircraft, 516 new tanks and 13 frigates. The think-tank highlighted that “Arab states in the Gulf region alone have placed orders for another more than 180 combat aircraft.”

However, overall arms imports to the Middle East were down 8.8 percent when comparing between 2013-2017 and 2018-2022.

Meanwhile, the global overall ranking of the top ten largest arms importers over the past five years were: India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia, China, Egypt, South Korea, Pakistan, Japan, US. And the top 10 largest arms exporters were: US, Russia, France, China, Germany, Italy, UK, Spain, South Korea and Israel.

SIPRI’s statistical data on arms transfers relates to actual deliveries of major arm. It measures the volume of international transfers of major arms using a common unit it defines as the trend-indicator value (TIV).

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