Israeli arms sales skyrocket, increasing 41.5% in one year

Defense exports jump from $6.5 billion in 2016 to $9.2 billion in 2017; most weapons sold to Asian, Pacific countries, notably India

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: The Israel Navy launches its new 'Barak 8' missile defense system on November 26, 2015. (screen capture: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Illustrative: The Israel Navy launches its new 'Barak 8' missile defense system on November 26, 2015. (screen capture: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Israeli arms sales increased dramatically — by 41.5 percent — from 2016 to 2017, according to figures released by the Defense Ministry on Wednesday, including a massive missile defense system sale to India.

Defense exports brought in $9.2 billion last year, compared to the $6.5 billion in 2016 and $5.7 billion the year before, according to the International Defense Cooperation Directorate at the Defense Ministry, known as SIBAT.

“This is an extraordinary achievement in every sense, which was reached thanks to the hard work of SIBAT and the defense industries and due to a number of agreements with foreign countries,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in a statement.

This dramatic increase can also be credited to efforts made by the Defense Ministry over the past year to deregulate the arms industry and make it easier for Israeli firms to export their wares.

SIBAT chief Michel Ben-Baruch told reporters he expects similar levels of defense exports in 2018.

SIBAT Director Michel Ben Baruch. (Courtesy)

Asia remained the biggest market for Israeli defense exports, accounting for 58% of arms sales in 2017. Europe and North America were Israel’s next largest customers. Africa, which saw a dramatic increase in arms sales in 2016, amounted to just five percent of exports in 2017.

Israel significantly increased its sale of missiles — including those used in air defense — in 2017. These exports jumped by over 70% from the year before, amounting to nearly a third of all Israeli arms sales.

This can largely be credited to the $630 million sale of Israel’s Barak 8 missile defense system to India, but Ben-Baruch stressed that “it’s not just the Barak 8, but several other deals.”

Radars and electronic warfare systems accounted for 17% of arms sales. Cyber warfare products and drones — two areas Israel for which is perhaps best known — amounted to just 5% and 2%, respectively.

Though he would not provide a specific breakdown, Ben-Baruch said the majority of Israel’s defense exports were from the larger contractors — like Rafael, Israeli Aerospace Industries and Israeli Military Industries — and not from smaller firms.

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