French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Eurosatory Exhibition on June 16 in Villepinte, near Paris. (Eric Piermont / Getty Images)
PARIS — French arms exports are expected to top €7 billion ($9.5 billion) this year after a rebound in global orders, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday.
International weapons contracts rose by 42 percent compared to the previous year in 2013 to €6.7 billion, he told the opening of a weapons show near Paris, adding that he expects this year to be “even better.”
Much of the turnaround is down to a rebound in exports to the Middle East, which make up 40 percent of buyers, including the €500 million renovation of the Saudi fleet.
Expansion in Asia and Latin America, including the €300 million sale of communications satellites to Brazil, also helped push French arms exports to above their 2011 level after a lackluster performance in 2012.
France is the world’s fourth-largest arms exporter, counting among its manufacturers giants such as Airbus Group.
Last year they accounted for 7.2 percent of the global weapons trade, behind the United States with 52 percent, Britain’s 13.4 percent and Russia’s 8.4 percent.
Le Drian also confirmed the imminent launch of Project Scorpio tank renewal program for “a little more than five billion” euros over 10 years.
“This is the building of the army of tomorrow, with more than 2,500 armored vehicles interconnected by high-performance information systems in various ways,” he said.