Macron’s France is now the world’s second-largest arms exporter

However 91% of France’s arms exports go outside Europe, not to protect it

Montage © Facts4EU.Org 2024

Latest figures show how Macron’s France is exporting arms around the globe

At a time when Ukraine is desperate for more weapons to fend off Putin’s illegal invasion of its country, and when threats to Europe are growing, President Macron’s France has risen to become the second-largest arms exporter in the world – but not to the EU and not to Ukraine.

This is according to the highly respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), whose data on arms sales Facts4EU.Org has long trusted. Note: In order to even out distortions from single large arms sales, SIPRI compares five-year periods - in this case 2014–18 and 2019–23.

France is now the world No.2 arms exporter

France narrowly overtook Russia to become the world’s second largest exporter of major arms in the latest period to 2023. French arms exports represented 11% of all arms transfers in this period, having increased by a remarkable 47% between 2014–18 and 2019–23.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org Summary

91% of French arms exports leave Europe

© Dassault 2024 - click to enlarge

At a time of serious concerns about security and defence in Europe, the French arms industry has been benefiting. However the vast majority of this production has been sent to countries outside Europe altogether.

1. Destination of French arms exports

  1. Asia and Oceania : 42%
  2. Middle East : 34%
  3. Europe : 9%
  4. Other : 15%

[Source SIPRI, Mar 2024.]

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2024 - click to enlarge

France delivered major arms to 64 states in 2019–23. India was by far the largest individual recipient, accounting for 29% of French arms exports.

2. The world’s Top 5 exporters of major arms, 2019–23

Share of the market

  1. USA : 42%
  2. France : 11%
  3. Russia : 11%
  4. China : 5.8%
  5. Germany : 5.6%
  • (UK : Placed 7th on 3.7%)

[Source SIPRI, Mar 2024.]

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2024 - click to enlarge

3. The largest changes in arms sales from the major exporters, 2019-2023

  • USA : +11%
  • France : +47%
  • Russia : -53%
  • China : -5.3%
  • Germany : -14%

[Source SIPRI, Mar 2024.]

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org 2024 - click to enlarge

If France’s arms sales are not going to Ukraine, where are they going?

The bulk of France’s arms exports in the last four years went to states in Asia and Oceania (42% of arms exports) and the Middle East (34%).

France has been trying to expand its arms sales to other EU states for many years but in 2019–23 these accounted for only 9.1% of the total. Of these, more than half of its European arms exports (53%) went to Greece.

Large increase in fighter jet sales – but not to EU countries and nor to Ukraine

A sharp rise in deliveries of Rafale combat aircraft accounted for most of the growth in French arms exports in 2019–23. France’s exports of its Rafales took off from 23 aircraft in 2014–18 to 94 in 2019–23, representing just under one third (31%) of French arms exports in the period. A further 193 Rafales were on order for export as at the end of 2023.

However, most of the aircraft France has already delivered (96 out of 117) and those on order (178 out of 193) are for countries outside Europe. These are going to Egypt, India, Indonesia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In the EU France has faced strong competition from the USA. Notably, 8 out of the 10 European countries that ordered combat aircraft in 2019–23 opted for US F-16s or F-35s, with only Croatia and Greece opting for the Rafale.

In addition to building up its sales of combat aircraft, France increased its exports of military ships (and associated weapons) by 14% between 2014–18 and 2019–23.


Given France’s military history it may surprise readers to learn that France is now the second-largest arms exporter in the world, after the US. One of the reasons for this is of course the large state support the industry receives.

It is perhaps also interesting to note that 91% of all French arms exports leave Europe altogether. Bearing in mind that France has spent so little on its own defence in recent decades – and considering the equally poor performance by so many other EU countries - it might have been thought that more of its military output might have been directed to defending the EU.

Instead it has been the United Kingdom that has stood up to be counted. Despite Brexit this continues to be the case to this day.

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[ Sources: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Tues 26 Mar 2024

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