US weapons exports decreased 21% to $138.2 billion in 2021: State Dept

US weapons exports decreased 21% to $138.2 billion in 2021: State Dept
2 min read
23 December, 2021
Sales of US military equipment in the prior fiscal year had totalled $175 billion.
US exports included almost $7 billion in helicopter sales [Getty]

Sales of US military equipment to foreign governments fell 21% to $138 billion in the latest fiscal year, the US State Department said on Wednesday.

The department disclosed military sales figures for the 2021 fiscal year, which ended on 30 September.

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Sales included $3.5 billion worth of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Australia and $3.4 billion worth of CH-53K helicopters to Israel.

Sales of US military equipment in the prior fiscal year had totalled $175 billion.

President Joe Biden's administration has been under pressure to cut weapons sales to key US ally Saudi Arabia due to civilian casualties in Yemen. His administration intends to announce a new weapons export policy that emphasises human rights when evaluating an arms sale, insiders have said.

The decline in sales also comes alongside an apparent fall in US military action across the globe. Conflict watchdog Airwars said official US Army data showed a fall in military strikes by 56%.

Despite the falls, however, U.S. manufacturers still dominated global arms sales with 54% of total exports. 

Foreign governments purchase arms from US companies chiefly through 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 avenues require US government approval.

The direct military sales by US companies fell 17% in 2021, while sales arranged through the US government fell 31% the State Department said.

In 2018, the Trump administration rolled out a "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.