Arms exports 2019-2023: France takes second place in the world for a long time

We know that arms exports represent a strategic issue for France. They make it possible, in fact, to maintain global industrial and technological know-how on French soil, where national orders would not be enough, unlike in the United States, Russia and China.

In addition, these exports make it possible to increase the sustainability of the French defense effort, by generating tax and social revenues which more than mitigate the effects of the increases in the army budget recorded since 2018.

In fact, the recent successes recorded in recent years by the hunter Rafale, the Caesar mounted gun, or even the Scorpène submarine, reinforce the sustainability of this French industrial capacity, more essential than ever in the degraded security context in Europe and around the world.

But these successes also had an almost unexpected effect. Indeed, according to the latest panel published by the Swedish organization SIPRI, France would have taken second place in the world in terms of defense exports over the period 2019-2023. This is an undeniable success for France, just as much a failure for Russia, which has made its defense industry the pillar of its economic transformation.

A historic fall in Russian arms exports over the last 5 years

Despite the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Russia managed, from 1995, to maintain second place in the world for exports of defense equipment. For Moscow, these exports constituted both a notable source of foreign exchange and a major industrial activity, employing more than a million employees in the country, the most important activity in the country, apart from the extraction and processing of hydrocarbons.

Su-35 arms exports to China
Symbol of the difficulties encountered by Russia in recent years on the arms export market, only China has purchased the Russian Su-35 to date.

However, over the last 5 years, these Russian exports have fallen dramatically, going from 21% of total arms exports in the world over the period 2014-2018, to only 11% over 2019-2023, according to the Sipri organization.

Several factors have degraded Russian exports. First, from February 2022, and the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, Moscow has concentrated almost all of its industrial capacities in support of its armies, reducing its exports to the strict minimum.

Furthermore, since 2019, Russian exports have been heavily handicapped by the threat of American CAATSA legislation, threatening severe sanctions against customers of the Russian defense industry, concerning certain major equipment. Finally, the attractiveness of Russian equipment has suffered in recent years from the comparison, in performance, with Western weapons, although much more expensive.

A consolidated second place for France, facing a Russian defense industry handicapped on the international scene

At the same time, France experienced a prosperous period regarding the exports of its weapons, driven by the excellent results of the fighter Rafale, the Caesar cannon as well as the submarine Scorpene, on the international scene.

Brazilian scorpene sub
The Scorpene submarine represented one of the pillars of French arms exports from 2019 to 2023, particularly to Brazil and India.

Above all, everything indicates that the French dynamic has not yet reached its peak. Indeed, in the years to come, deliveries of these systems, but also other successes such as in the field of naval mine warfare, in that of armored vehicles on wheels, missiles or even helicopters, should further increase, based on orders signed over the last three years.


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