Massive military spending in the Asia-Pacific region is driving an “explosion” in the global arms trade and will exceed the size of America’s defense budget within a decade, according to a study of trends in global defense spending.
Annual defense spending by China, India, Indonesia and other Asian nations will rise 35 percent to $501 billion by 2021, compared to a 28 percent fall in the United States to $472 billion over the same period, says the study, “The Balance of Trade,” published by IHS Janes.
“Budgets are shifting East, and global arms trade is increasing competition,” said Janes’ Paul Burton. “This is the biggest explosion in [the arms] trade the world has ever seen.”
At current rates, he added, global trade in military hardware will more than double by 2020.
The study also says Israel will pass the United States as the world’s largest exporter of unmanned drone aircraft this year and will be exporting twice as many as U.S. drone companies by the end of next year.
In 2012, the United States led exporters of unmanned aerial systems, as their manufacturers call them. American firms sold U.S. allies $430 million worth of drones, making up 13 percent of sales since 2008. Over the same period, Israeli exports grew nearly 50 percent to $238 million, and are set to neatly double again this year to exceed the United States, the study shows
One of the study’s authors, Guy Anderson, warned the United States and its western allies are in danger of losing the technological lead they enjoyed over defense industries in Asia, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
“Low-end defense equipment dominates the global market now,” said Mr. Anderson, pointing to growing demand from Africa and elsewhere for competitively priced but technically outmoded weapons systems.
As a result, China’s exports have doubled over the past five years, according to the study.
“But the West’s edge on technology will erode this decade as Asia outspends the United States and Europe,” Mr. Anderson added.