Israeli arms sales break record for 3rd year in row, reaching $13 billion in 2023

Defense Ministry says massive exports come as industries remain committed to Israeli war effort; air defense systems account for more than a third of sales

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

The Arrow air defense system is seen in a video published by the Defense Ministry on November 13, 2023. (Defense Ministry)
The Arrow air defense system is seen in a video published by the Defense Ministry on November 13, 2023. (Defense Ministry)

Annual Israeli arms sales reached a new record in 2023, for the third consecutive year, amounting to nearly double the value of exports compared to five years ago, according to Defense Ministry figures released Monday.

The ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate, known as SIBAT, said defense exports totaled $13 billion last year, up from $12.5 billion in 2022 — the previous record high. Between 2018 and 2020, that number hovered between $7.5 billion and $8.5 billion.

With the outbreak of the war on October 7, the Defense Ministry said it began operating in an “emergency mode,” with defense contractors being drafted to the war effort by manufacturing weaponry and equipment for the Israel Defense Forces around the clock, alongside previous orders for foreign clients.

“Despite the war, 2023 amounted to a new record and was characterized by significant export deals,” the ministry said.

Air defense systems made up the largest chunk of exports at 36% — up from 19% in 2022. This was largely due to Israel’s €4 billion sale of the Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system to Germany.

Exports of radar and electronic warfare systems amounted to 11% of arms sales, and weapons launchers made up another 11%.

This chart released by the Defense Ministry on June 17, 2024, shows Israeli arms exports in recent years. (Defense Ministry)

While Israel is known for cyber-intelligence systems, these only amounted to 4% of all sales in 2023. Officials did not specify which countries they were sold to. Israeli sales of such technologies have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to allegations they were used by some countries to spy on political dissidents and journalists.

Unmanned aerial vehicles and drones, manned aircraft, avionics, observation systems, communication systems, vehicles, maritime systems, ammunition, and services accounted for much of the rest.

The Asia-Pacific region was the largest purchaser of Israeli defense goods, buying 48% of total exports, followed by Europe at 35%.

North America accounted for 9%, Latin America for 3%, and Africa for 1%.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 agreements known as the Abraham Accords, accounted for just 3% of the arms purchases — down from 24% in 2022.

“Even in a year in which the State of Israel is fighting against seven different arenas, the defense exports of the State of Israel succeed in continuing to break records. This fact is a certificate of honor, first and foremost, for our defense industries and the creative and talented minds that work in them and drive them to the heights of breakthrough innovation,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in remarks provided by the ministry.

“This year’s figures show that even though our defense industries are committed… to the war effort, they continue to sign more and more significant export deals, thus enabling the realization of the effort led by the Defense Ministry to increase defense exports while opening them to new markets,” he added.

Most Popular
read more: