Official Statistics

UK defence and security export statistics: 2021

Updated 6 February 2023

Two errors have been identified in the 2021 official defence and security export statistics for the years 2020 and 2021. A revision note for UK defence and security export statistics: 2021 advises users of these errors, the revisions which have been made to address them, and the implications of these revisions for the data. Amendments to the content below are indicated by the footnotes.


This is the ninth year that UK Defence and Security Exports has published defence and security export figures as ‘Official Statistics’. This release has been compiled in conjunction with the DIT Statistics team, whose technical advice and support is acknowledged here.

Our defence statistics relate to exports to overseas Ministries of Defence and associated Armed Services.

Our security figures relate to sales. 2021 Security data is provided by a contractor called Westlands Advisory. We have also included earlier data provided by Frost & Sullivan.

Separate methodology papers for the defence and security statistics accompany this release on the GOV.UK website.

The information collected on the defence and security markets is vital to our understanding of the shape of the market and trends. It helps UK Defence and Security Exports target support to the defence and security industry.


Key points are:

  • on a rolling 10-year basis, the UK remains the second largest global defence exporter after the USA
  • in 2021, the value of UK security export sales was £8.22 billion, with the UK third place in the rankings
  • the UK’s largest security export markets were Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific
  • in 2021, the UK won defence orders worth £6.64 billion[footnote 1], compared to £7.52 billion[footnote 2] in 2020, illustrative of the volatile nature of the global export market for defence
  • the UK share of the global defence export market was estimated at 7% in 2021[footnote 1] with the UK’s largest defence export markets being North America, Middle East and Europe

Chart 1: defence exports: estimated UK and competitor percentage market shares (2012 to 2021)[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 1 highlights UK and competitor estimated defence export market-shares for the past decade. This provides a good barometer of the competitiveness of the leading exporters in the global market.

The USA has annually achieved the highest estimated percentage of the global defence export market between 2012 and 2021. Our European competitors have consistently had a much lower percentage share than USA.

The UK and France have historically vied with Russia for second or third place behind the USA. However, in 2021 the USA achieved market-share, of 32%[footnote 1] (predominately in the air sector), France 28%, Russia 12%, the UK 7%[footnote 1] and Germany 7%. Placing the UK fourth[footnote 1] in the in-year rankings.

To achieve the significant increase in global market share in 2021, France won export orders of $35.7 billion in 2021, compared to $5.6 billion in 2020. This was predominantly due to sales of Rafale aircraft to the UAE, Egypt, and Greece.

Germany saw its estimated market-share peak at 9% in 2013 and in 2017 they secured a large naval contract that boosted their overall ranking.  In 2019, they secured a major contract with Egypt for Meko A-200 Frigates worth $1.68 billion, and in 2021, an export of 4 212CD (Common Design) submarines to Norway worth over $4 billion.

Italy has traditionally enjoyed a relatively consistent level of defence exports. In 2016, the country rose to the fifth largest defence exporter for the period, partially as a result of a large naval contract with Qatar. In 2021, Fincantieri secured a contract for 6 FREMM Frigates to Indonesia totalling over $1 billion.

Chart 2: annual value of UK defence exports 2012 to 2021 (£ billion)[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 2 shows annual totals (in actual prices) for UK defence exports, with the variable cyclical nature clearly visible. Over the reporting period, the UK’s highest annual export value was in 2018 (£14 billion), and the second highest value was in 2019 (£11 billion). Total defence exports then reduced to £7.5 billion in 2020, and £5.5 billion in 2021. Total defence exports then reduced to £7.5 billion[footnote 2] in 2020, and £6.64 billion[footnote 1] in 2021.

UK core business remained strong in 2021.  Aerospace remains the dominant sector for the UK, and North America was the biggest market.

As we reported previously, the UK has won significant defence orders during the past decade, including:

  • Typhoon aircraft to Kuwait
  • Typhoon aircraft and Brimstone missiles to Qatar
  • Hawk and Typhoon aircraft to Oman
  • Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia
  • helicopters to Norway and South Korea
  • Trent 700 aircraft engines to France
  • offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to Brazil
  • F-35 work and military bridging to USA
  • Typhoon aircraft to Germany

Chart 3: estimated global defence exports (based on orders/contracts signed): World market $ billion at actual prices[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 3 shows the value of global defence exports annually over the last 10 years.

Year-on-year, the global defence export market experiences peaks and troughs in response to fluctuations in defence spending levels, threat perception and national requirements.

The global defence export market is estimated to have decreased from a record $173 billion[footnote 2] in 2020 to $128 billion[footnote 1] in 2021.

Major global defence export deals in 2021 included:

  • France – 80 Rafale aircraft to UAE ($19.2 billion)
  • France – 30 Rafale aircraft to Egypt ($7.8 billion)
  • USA – F-35 Lightning II aircraft to Switzerland ($6.5 billion)
  • Germany – U212CD (Common Design) submarines to Norway ($4.3 billion)
  • France – 18 Rafale aircraft to Greece ($2.35 billion)

Chart 4: estimated top 10 defence exporters (based on orders/contracts signed): 2012 to 2021 ($ billion)[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 4 shows that for the most recent 10-year period (2012-2021 inclusive), the UK is the second largest defence exporter globally, behind the USA.

The UK is also Europe’s leading defence exporter, ahead of Russia (third) and France (fourth).

The USA is the world’s pre-eminent defence exporter, having secured nearly 4 times the value of exports of second-placed UK during the 10-year period from 2012 to 2021.

There are no Latin American or African countries in the top 10 global defence exporters list, and the Middle East is only represented by Israel, ranked eighth.

Chart 5: estimated value of defence imports by region 2012 to 2021, including the split between UK and rest of the world exports to each region ($ billion)[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 5 shows that the Middle East is the largest regional importer of defence equipment and services, the same as reported last year.  Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Egypt are major national importers, whilst the UK, USA and France are the major suppliers to the region.

The Asia-Pacific region has seen increased defence import activity in recent years, particularly in the aerospace and naval sectors. The UK has won major defence business in the region, including in 2013, when AgustaWestland won an AW159 helicopter contract with South Korea.

Europe is the third biggest regional importer, with the USA and local European industries strong.

Chart 6: estimated top 10 defence importer nations (based on orders/contracts signed): 2012 to 2021 ($ billion)

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 6 shows the leading 10 global defence importers in the period 2012 to 2021. The UK was the twelfth largest importer over the period.

The Middle East dominated global defence imports in the 2012 to 2021 period, with Saudi Arabia the world’s biggest importer.

Chart 7: estimated total UK defence exports (based on orders/contracts signed) by region 2012 to 2021[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 7 shows UK defence exports by region based on total 2012 to 2021 figures, the segments highlighting regional percentages.

The Middle East (51%[footnote 1]) remains the dominant UK export destination reflecting the importance of the market to the UK (and note, to our competitors too).

North America was the second highest region for UK defence exporters, accounting for almost one fifth[footnote 1] of total UK defence exports by customer destination. Europe and the Asia-Pacific were the next most important regional markets for the UK in this period.

Chart 8: estimated percentage share of UK defence exports by region for the periods 2020 and 2021[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 8 shows percentage share comparison of UK defence exports by region for 2020† and 2021[footnote 1].

Total exports to the Middle East were up from 14%† in 2020 to 28%r in 2021, making it the second[footnote 1] largest market (by value) for the UK in 2021, after North America (30%[footnote 1]).

Following the export of Typhoon Aircraft to Germany in 2020, Europe dropped from 45%† to 21%[footnote 1] in 2021.

The Asia-Pacific region rose from 8% in 2020 to 12%[footnote 1] in 2021.

UK defence exports to Latin America were up to around 2% in 2021.

Chart 9: UK and global defence export market (based on orders/contracts signed) by sector 2012 to 2021[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

Chart 9 depicts global and UK defence export performance by sector across the 2012 to 2021 period based on orders/contracts signed. Where exports do not clearly fit within a specific sector they have been included as ‘other’.

As is evident from the top bar (the Global % position), the Aerospace sector by value accounted for over half (56%[footnote 1]) of all defence exports. This is unsurprising given the fact that high value combat aircraft, transport aircraft, trainer aircraft and attack and transport helicopters reside in this domain. The Land sector accounted for a fifth (20%[footnote 1]) of all defence exports globally. The Sea sector (13%[footnote 1]) is the lowest sector globally by value.

The UK is largely dependent (72%[footnote 1]) on its aerospace sector, including platforms, equipment, and support.

Chart 10: UK and global defence export market (based on orders/contracts signed) by sector 2021[footnote 1]

Source: UK Defence and Security Exports

The aerospace sector by value in 2021 accounted for 55% of all defence exports globally. Where exports do not clearly fit within a specific sector they have been included as ‘other’.

The lower bar highlights the continuing significance of aerospace to the UK equating to 46%[footnote 1] of total UK defence exports.

Chart 11: UK Security Exports 2020 to 2021 (£ billion)

Chart 11 shows UK security exports for the last 2 years. (£7.20 billion in 2020** and £8.22 billion in 2021)

**Note: Information on UK security exports is currently provided by Westlands Advisory. The company’s methodology will be provided in a separate document published alongside these statistics following this release.

In our previous release in October 2021, Frost & Sullivan (F&S) had estimated the 2020 UK security exports market as £7.95 billion. We have used Westlands’ 2020 figure in the current chart which they estimated at £7.14 billion

Chart 12: UK physical security/cyber export destinations by region (based on sales) for 2021 (£ million)

Source: Westlands Advisory

Chart 12 shows UK physical security and cyber exports by region in 2021.

The largest export market for the UK’s security industry is Europe (£4.1 billion), 63% of which is cyber.

Chart 13: UK security exports by technology segments 2021 (£ million)

Source: Westlands Advisory

Chart 13 shows UK security exports by technology segments in 2021

Cyber security remains the biggest sector (£5 billion) for UK Security exports in 2021.

Chart 14: UK cyber exports 2016 to 2021 (£ billion)

Chart 14 shows UK cyber exports for each of the last 6 years.

Cyber security remains the largest UK Security Exports sub-sector, UK Cyber exports increased from £4 billion in 2020 to £5 billion in 2021, a growth rate of 20%.

Chart 15: Global security exports by country 2021 ($ billion)

Source: Westlands Advisory

Chart 16 shows that in 2021, the UK retained third place in the global security export rankings, with exports worth $10.76 billion behind the USA and China.


This UK Defence and Security Exports statistical release contains UK defence and security export performance data and analysis. UK defence figures are derived from a survey of UK defence companies to capture new orders data. Rest of the world figures are derived from open-source reporting and capture competitor contracts signed. Security export data is based on sales. It is not advisable to combine the defence and security export figures as they are recorded via a different methodology and report on a different metric (orders/contracts vs sales).

Where ‘$’ values are expressed for rest of the world activity or global totals, these are presented in US dollars for consistency. Figures quoted are actual prices, not adjusted for inflation.

All figures are subject to revisions due to definitional and methodological changes that will be notified to users via the GOV.UK website.

KMatrix provided security export data to UK Defence and Security Exports under a multi-year contract that expired in 2016.  Since then, Frost & Sullivan and Westlands Advisory have both provided figures for different years.

UK DSE statistical contact


  1. Indicates statistics that have been revised since original publication. At a high-level, the amendment shows a £1.14 billion increase in UK defence exports for 2021, with the UK moving from £5.50 billion to £6.64 billion and from ranking fifth to fourth in-year. However, this does not have an impact on rankings over a 10-year rolling average, where the UK remains second. This amendment is to correct an information management error when processing data provided by UK companies via UKDSE’s survey of defence export contracts. More details are included in the [revision note].  2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

  2. During compilation of these statistics, some double counting was identified in the 2020 UK defence export figures. Therefore, the figure for 2020 has been revised down from £7.9 billion to £7.5 billion. This also impacts the global figure for 2020, revising it down from $174 billion to $173 billion  2 3