TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel's Defense Ministry reported Wednesday that Israeli firms signed $6.5 billion in new export contracts for 2016, an $800 million rise above previous-year levels and an indication of an upward trend after a disappointing $5.6 billion in 2014.

"The rise in the amount of new contracts signed is an expression of a global trend of nations emerging from recession, especially those in Europe and North America, and of augmented defense budgets vis-a-vis intensifying security challenges," said Mishel Ben-Baruch, director of the ministry's SIBAT defense cooperation and export authority.

"We're proud to conclude a challenging and successful year for the Israeli defense industry. We succeeded in partnership to achieve a significant rise in our defense exports," he added.

In an interview earlier this year, Ben-Baruch attributed Israel's competitive edge in niche sectors of the global market to the country's readiness to transfer technology and operational knowledge to its defense trade partners.

"Our industries are offering innovative and advanced technologies. ... And it’s not just a matter of selling. We are certainly open to the type of cooperation that increasingly demands joint production and a transfer of certain knowledge," Ben-Baruch told Defense News.

MoD data shows that contracts concluded in 2016 covered a full spectrum of market sectors, starting with aircraft upgrades and airborne systems, which constituted some 20 percent of new deals last year.

Other sectors included observation and electro-optic systems (18 percent); missiles and air defense systems (15 percent); land systems and weapon stations (13 percent); radars and electronic warfare (12 percent); intelligence and cyber technologies (8 percent); UAVs (7 percent); communications systems (4 percent); maritime systems (1 percent); and 2 percent defined as miscellaneous.

According to MoD data, Israel’s top market remains the Asia-Pacific region, where $2.6 billion in new contracts were inked last year, followed by Europe with $1.8 billion. North America accounted for nearly $1.3 billion in new orders, followed by $550 million in Latin America and $275 million in Africa.

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Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.

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