The global defence industry further increased arms sales last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) data released on Monday, the world’s 100 leading arms companies sold weapons and military services worth 531 billion dollars in 2020.

The SIPRI said in the report that governments around the world have continued to buy arms during the pandemic and some also passed measures to help their big weapons firms.

The report stated that this was a 1.3-per-cent increase in real terms compared to the previous year, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth.

The top five firms were all from the US –– Lockheed-Martin, which counts F-35 fighter jets and various types of missiles among its bestsellers, consolidating its first place with sales of $58.2 billion.

Together, the arms sales of the 41 US companies amounted to $285 billion — an increase of 1.9 per cent compared with 2019 — and accounted for 54 per cent of the Top 100’s total arms sales.

The combined arms sales of the five Chinese companies included in the top 100 amounted to an estimated $66.8 billion in 2020, 1.5 per cent more than in 2019, the report said.

Britain’s BAE Systems, in the sixth position, was the highest placed European firm, just ahead of three Chinese groups.

Of the top-producing countries, only France and Russia saw their firms’ sales decline last year.

The SIPRI said in its annual assessment of arms companies said that military manufacturers were largely shielded by sustained government demand for military goods and services.

The report said that however, despite these and other factors, global arms production was not fully immune to the impact of the pandemic.

It highlighted that the rate of increase in profits had slowed substantially between 2019 and 2020, and noted that measures taken to halt the spread of the virus had disrupted supply chains in the weapons industry just as they had across the wider economy.

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