The independent resource on global security

8. International arms transfers



Full text (PDF)


Arms Transfers Project identifies trends in international transfers
of major conventional weapons using the SIPRI trend indicator.
The trend-indicator value represents the volume of international
transfers of both major conventional weapons and military technology
for the foreign licensed production of these weapons.

The five-year
moving average level of global arms transfers fell in the period
1997–2001. This is explained mainly by a reduction in deliveries
by the USA, which was the largest supplier in 1997–2001
despite a 65% reduction in its arms deliveries since 1998. Russia
was the second largest supplier during this period. A 24% increase
in arms transfers from 2000 to 2001 made Russia the largest supplier
in 2001.

China was
by far the largest arms recipient in 2001 after an increase of
44% from 2000. Imports by India increased by 50%, making it the
third largest recipient in 2001. The other major recipients in
the period 1997–2001 were Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Turkey.

Certain countries
are prohibited from receiving arms, some because they are involved
in armed conflicts. It is impossible for arms suppliers to control
whether arms deliveries will stabilize or destabilize a particular
bilateral relationship, as illustrated by the case of India and
Pakistan. Even relatively minor acquisitions, as illustrated
by 3 countries in West Africa, may influence war-fighting and
affect the acquisition behaviour of neighbouring countries. The
United Nations continues to criticize the efficiency of arms

The future
supply of advanced major conventional weapons is affected by
the uncertainty concerning the organization of transatlantic
production and trade. Only the UK has been willing to participate
fully and pay the cost of influencing Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
requirements. The cost of the highest form of participation in
JSF development is too high for most European countries. If the
project is a case study of transatlantic cooperation and the
effects on military technology transfers, the transatlantic market
will remain unbalanced.

on the global arms market has strengthened new forms of marketing
and transfer arrangements. Offset arrangements granted to the
buyer may include military technology transfers in addition to
the weapon system itself. Some arrangements involve transfers
of military equipment from the buyer. In both cases offsets stimulate
international military transfers.


Nicholas Chipperfield
(United Kingdom) is a Research Assistant on the SIPRI Arms Transfers
Project and has contributed to the SIPRI Yearbook since
2000. Before joining SIPRI he worked for the British American
Security Information Council (BASIC) in Washington, DC and London.

Dr Björn
(Sweden) is the Leader of the SIPRI
Arms Transfers Project. Before joining SIPRI in 1998 he was
a Researcher and Associate Professor at the Department of Peace
and Conflict Research, Uppsala University. His recent publications
include a chapter on Sweden’s defence industry in eds A.
Eriksson and J. Hallenberg, The Changing European Defence
Industry Sector: Consequences for Sweden?
(2000). He also
contributed to Gummett, P. and James, A. (eds), The European
Defence Industry and the New Arms Economy
(Palgrave, forthcoming),
the final report of the international project Managing European
Technology: Defence and Competitiveness Issues.

Pieter D.
(Netherlands) is a Researcher on the SIPRI Arms Transfers
Project. He has authored or co-authored several articles and
papers on arms export issues. From 2000 he has focused on the
issue of small arms transfers to areas of conflict. He has contributed
to the SIPRI Yearbook since 1995.

Siemon T.
(Netherlands) is a Researcher on the SIPRI Arms Transfers
Project. He is co-author (with Edward J. Laurance and Herbert
Wulf) of SIPRI Research Report no. 6, Arms Watch: SIPRI
Report on the First Year of the UN Register of Conventional Arms
(1993), (with Bates Gill and J. N. Mak) of ASEAN Arms
Acquisitions: Developing Transparency
(1995) and (with Pieter
D. Wezeman) of a paper for the Bonn International Center for
Conversion (BICC) on Dutch surplus weapon exports (1996). He
has contributed to SIPRI Research Report no. 13, Arms,
Transparency and Security in South-East Asia
(1997) and to
the SIPRI Yearbook since 1993.