US weapons exports rise 2.8% to $175 billion in fiscal 2020


Sales of US military equipment to foreign governments rose 2.8% to $175 billion in the latest fiscal year, officials said on Friday, with looser restrictions under President Donald Trump boosting purchases during his time in office.

The US State Department disclosed military sales figures for the 2020 fiscal year, which ended on 30 September Sales of US military equipment in the prior fiscal year had totaled $170 billion.

Sales of fighter jets and guided missiles have risen in the past year as US allies sought to gain access to the latest technology from companies including Lockheed Martin Co and and Raytheon Technologies. Major deals in fiscal 2020 included Japan’s purchase of 63 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin for as much as $23 billion.

There are two major ways foreign governments purchase arms from US companies: direct commercial sales negotiated between a government and a company; and foreign military sales in which a foreign government typically contacts a Defense Department official at the US embassy in its capital. Both require US government approval.

The direct military sales by US companies jumped 8.4% to $124.3 billion in fiscal 2020 from $114.7 billion in fiscal 2019, while sales arranged through the US government fell 8.3% to $50.78 billion in 2020 from $55.39 billion the prior year, the State Department said.

On average, foreign military sales under Trump amounted to $57.5 billion per year, versus an average of $53.9 billion per year for the eight years under his predecessor Barack Obama, in 2020 dollars, according to Bill Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy think tank. Sales averaged about 6% more per year under Trump, Hartung said.

Trump’s administration in 2018 rolled out a new “Buy American” program that relaxed restrictions on military sales while encouraging US officials to take a bigger role in increasing business overseas for the US weapons industry. Trump is due to leave office on 20 January.