Israeli arms sales doubled in a decade, hit new record of $12.5 billion in 2022

Defense Ministry officials note surge in demand for Israeli-made weapons due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, uptick in interest from Arab allies; nearly quarter of exports are drones

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

A Spike anti-tank missile is seen launched, in a handout photo published April 9, 2023. (Rafael Advanced Systems)
A Spike anti-tank missile is seen launched, in a handout photo published April 9, 2023. (Rafael Advanced Systems)

Annual Israeli arms sales reached a new record in 2022, for the second consecutive year, amounting to double the number of exports compared to around a decade ago, according to Defense Ministry figures released Wednesday.

The ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate, known as SIBAT, said defense exports totaled $12.5 billion last year, up from $11.4 billion in 2021 — the previous record high. Between 2011 and 2016, that number hovered between $5.6 billion and $7.5 billion.

Officials cited “geostrategic changes” in Europe as the reason for the sharp increase in demand for Israeli-made weapons, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Officials also said there had been a significant demand for Israeli weapons by Arab nations that recently normalized ties with Israel.

“Israel’s defense exports have reached a new peak for the second consecutive time, a remarkable 65% increase within five years,” Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Kulas, the head of SIBAT, said in remarks provided by the ministry.

“Demand for Israeli defense solutions has grown in the past year, manifesting in the sharp increase in agreements between defense ministries,” Kulas said.

The Asia-Pacific region was the largest purchaser of Israeli defense goods, buying 30% of total exports, followed by Europe at 29%.

This chart released by the Defense Ministry on June 14, 2023, shows Israeli arms exports in recent years. (Defense Ministry)

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 agreements known as the Abraham Accords, accounted for 24% of the arms purchases — up from 7% in 2021.

North America accounted for 11%, and Africa and Latin America each accounted for 3%.

“Looking ahead, the geostrategic changes in Europe and Asia in addition to the Abraham Accords generate a high demand for Israel’s cutting-edge systems,” Kulas said.

This chart released by the Defense Ministry on June 14, 2023, shows the sum of Israeli defense exports to various regions in recent years. (Defense Ministry)

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones made up the largest chunk of exports at 25% — up from 9% in 2021 — followed by missiles, rockets, and air defense systems at 19%.

Exports of radar and electronic warfare systems amounted to 13% of arms sales.

While Israel is well known for cyber-intelligence systems, they only amounted to 6% of all sales in 2022. Officials did not specify which countries they were sold to. Israeli sales of such technology have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years due to allegations they were used by some countries to spy on political dissidents and journalists.

Manned aircraft, avionics, observation systems, weapons launchers, communication systems, vehicles, maritime systems, ammunition and services accounted for much of the rest.

A side view of the Israel Aerospace Industries Harop drone at the Paris Air Show in 2013. (Wikipedia/Julian Herzog/CC BY)

Ministry officials noted that the overall number of government-to-government arms sales had increased tenfold over the past five years, reaching over $4 billion, compared to $412 million in 2018.

“The remarkable data unveiled by the Israeli defense establishment, reaching new heights in defense exports, showcases the State of Israel’s strength and excellent technological capabilities,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

“Through the creativity and innovation of both the Israeli defense establishment and the Defense Ministry, we not only outpace our adversaries but also sustain our qualitative edge,” he added.

Israel is in the midst of a potential $4.3 billion sale of its Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system to Germany.

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