LONDON — Britain recorded its best overseas defense sales in five years in 2012, but the figures emphasized again how reliant the country is on the air sector for retaining its position among the world’s export elite.
The figures released by the British government’s Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) show defense exports totaled £8.8 billion (US $13.6 billion), a 62 percent increase from 2011.
Security sales advanced 4 percent to £2.7 billion in a global market that the DSO said advanced overall by 3 percent during the year.
The upward spiral in defense sales came on the back of Hawk jet trainer sales to Saudi Arabia alongside Typhoon and Hawk sales to Oman. Elsewhere, maritime sales remained static, and land equipment exports halved.
The Typhoon program alone supports an estimated 8,600 jobs in the UK across companies like BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Selex, DSO said in a statement.
The air sector continued to provide the best export opportunities this year with potential Typhoon and Hawk sales, said DSO, most notably for Typhoon in the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia.
Among successes already secured in 2013, DSO listed AgustaWestland’s sale of the Wildcat reconnaissance helicopter to South Korea. On the maritime front, it said there had been deals with Indonesia for the update of frigates and submarine equipment sales to South Korea.
The DSO said the figures maintain Britain as the world’s second largest defense exporter after the US and ahead of Russia and France.
The British, though, calculate their annual exports on business won during the year, while many others, such as the US, use the actual export of equipment and services over the 12 months to arrive at their figures.
Earlier this year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported the UK had fallen out of the top five world defense exporters in 2008-12, with China taking its place.
The Middle East remains Britain’s biggest buyer of defense equipment. Defense exports to the US were down slightly last year, DSO said.