Arms sales at the 100 biggest arms makers grew 1 per cent in 2010, adjusted for currency fluctuations, to $411-billion, defying the global downturn, a leading think-tank said on Monday.
It was the highest sales figure since the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which conducts independent research on international security, armaments and disarmament, started its annual studies in 2002.
"The data for 2010 demonstrates, once again, the major players' ability to continue selling arms and military services despite the financial crises currently affecting other industries," SIPRI arms industry expert Susan Jackson said in a statement.
The growth rate was significantly lower than in 2009, when it was 8 per cent – which Ms. Jackson said was probably "not due to the financial crisis but rather because of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and the subsequent expected decrease in related equipment sales."
To the extent arms makers are affected by economic swings, many are late-cyclical as they have long delivery times and long-running contracts with governments.
Of the firms monitored by the group in 2010, 73 were based in the United States and western Europe, generating more than 90 per cent of the sales.
The top spots were unchanged from 2009 with U.S. firm Lockheed Martin the biggest, British group BAE Systems at number two and U.S. Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics following.
In the 2002-2010 period, arms sales by the top 100 firms grew 60 per cent, SIPRI said.