WASHINGTON — The U.S. aerospace and defense industry set a new record for international sales in 2016, delivering $146 billion in exports, the Aerospace Industries Association announced Monday.
Exports for the sector have been on an upward swing for a while, increasing by 52 percent over the past five years. Compared to 2015, companies were able to sell an additional $3 billion in products to international customers in 2016, AIA data shows.
Unsurprisingly, civil aerospace sales made up the majority of the $146 billion total, with defense products comprising about 15 percent of sales, AIA stated. The U.S. military aerospace sector shipped about $16 billion worth of products to foreign militaries in 2016 — a 5 percent increase from 2015. Non-aerospace military companies fared even better, increasing exports almost 9 percent from $5.6 billion to $6.1 billion.
Europe imported about 34 percent of US aerospace and defense exports last year, making it the industry’s largest regional customer. However, sales to the Middle East are rapidly growing, increasing by 22 percent over the past year.
Unlike the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which charts weapon sales by fiscal years, AIA measures product shipments by calendar years. Thus, the industry organization was not able to count two of 2016’s biggest fighter jet purchases: $21.1 billion for 72 F-15QA fighters for Qatar and $10.1 billion for 32 F/A-18E aircraft to Kuwait, an AIA spokesman confirmed.
This could be another banner year for the defense and aerospace industries. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, the U.S. State Department approved foreign military sales worth an estimated $45.2 billion dollars — more than total foreign military sales for all of fiscal 2016, Defense News reported in December. If approved by Congress and manufactured this year, some of those purchases could help rack up the export total for 2017.