The sale of arms by the United States more than tripled in 2011, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS).
The annual study was delivered to US Congress on Friday, and is considered the most detailed unclassified collection of data of arms sales according to the New York Times.
The US sold weapons worth $66.3 billion overseas in 2011, up from $21.4 billion the previous year. The US’s previous high in arm sales was achieved in 2009, when the country sold $31 billion in total arms sales abroad.
The US sales numbers made up almost 78 percent of the global arms market. The second highest arms seller was Russia, which sold roughly $4.8 billion worth of weapons.
Gulf countries were the United States’ biggest customers. Saudi Arabia spent more than $33 billion on arms, while the United Arab Emirates and Oman also purchased $4.4 billion and $1.4 billion respectively. The acquisitions in the Middle East come at a time when tensions and concern escalate over Iran’s nuclear power and upgraded weapons systems. The weapons deals also possible represent a strengthening of ties between the US and its clients in the Gulf.
Much of the sales to Saudi Arabia went to reinforcing the Royal Saudi Air Force. Last December the US and Saudi Arabia came to a $29.4 billion deal that sent 84 new F-15 fighter jets to Riyadh and upgraded the Saudi Government’s older F-15 jets. The same month, the UAE, which sits on the other side of the Strait of Hormuz from Iran, purchased $3.48 billion in missile systems, including a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System.
The US has led the world in weapon sales in recent history, but growing demand due to regional pressure, especially among US allies in the Middle East, has widened the gap between the US and the other arms suppliers to an unprecedented level. From 2003 to 2010, the US accounted for almost $171 billion in arms agreements, representing 39% of the global market. Around half of the US’s agreements have been with developing countries. During the same period, deals with Russia made up 18% of the global market.
The CRS report only covers official deals, so any clandestine weapons transfers are not accounted for.