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US defense dominance is slipping says analyst

Patriot Missile
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Patriot Missile

The West's dominance in providing military hardware around the world is set to erode, according to analysts in the sector.

In a white paper issued in May by consulting firm Avascent, 59 percent of global defense sales in 2015 came from Western countries with the United States accounting for the bulk of that figure.

But the same report suggested this dominance is on the wane and Avascent Managing Director Doug Berenson thinks he knows why.

"There are a growing number of countries that have a more sophisticated defense capability," he told CNBC by phone on Friday.

"They are more able to satisfy their own defense requirements and are starting to compete in the export market against more established suppliers."

Berenson said some development in this area has come from countries who have worked as partners with traditional suppliers such as the United States.

"Countries will buy a design from the U.S. or others, but they will do so on the condition that it can carry out final assembly or ensure significant local input," he added.


File photo of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Source: U.S. Defense
File photo of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

One example of this according to Berenson is Turkey's insistence on the final assembly of its F-16 fighter jet fleet.

Avascent expects South Korea, Israel and Brazil to be more significant exporters over the next decade.

Berenson said Israel's electronic expertise in defense has sharply risen because of an ongoing relationship with the U.S. military and the country is now enjoying strong exports to India.

He also suggested that Brazilian aerospace firm Embraer will keep that country at the forefront of supplying spy planes and other special mission aircraft.

And Berenson claimed that South Korean expertise in electronics makes it "very reasonable to assume" the country will enjoy a growing presence in defense sales.


Russia and China looking to export

Although enormous in scale, Russian and Chinese defense sectors have traditionally focused on domestic needs.

It's inevitable that China will sell more and more abroad, particularly to local markets, according to Berenson. Avascent's white paper expects China to eclipse the U.S. as Pakistan's largest arms provider by as early as this year.

"Pakistan has fairly deep ties to China. So has the U.S. This will be a key battleground," he said.

Since 2010 Russia, has managed to sell helicopters, fighter jets and missiles to at least 12 countries although deal volume remains small.

Berenson said a big focus for Russia will be to maintain its deep defense alignment with India.

"India has a very large budget and Western countries look on with longing," he said.


A Russian Helix KA-27 helicopter flies near the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf while conducting operations in the Gulf of Aden, in this U.S. Navy picture taken February 9, 2009. Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes April 12 near the U.S. destroyer USS Donald Cook and were followed by seven passes by Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter taking pictures, a U.S. official said.
US Navy | MC2 Jason R. Zalasky | Reuters
A Russian Helix KA-27 helicopter flies near the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf while conducting operations in the Gulf of Aden, in this U.S. Navy picture taken February 9, 2009. Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes April 12 near the U.S. destroyer USS Donald Cook and were followed by seven passes by Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter taking pictures, a U.S. official said.

Who will do the buying?

The World Bank estimated that in 2015 the combined annual defense budgets of the world's largest 50 spenders exceeded $1.6 trillion.

A 2015 report by audit firm Deloitte suggested that with Asia getting richer, the continent will account for an ever-growing share of military spend.

It also highlighted that in the top 50 spending countries, deaths from terrorism and battle are declining and were, at the time of the report, below pre-9/11 levels.

"Over the next five years, these deep rooted trends are likely to reduce global levels of militarization and to narrow the capability gaps between armed forces worldwide," read the report.

In the study countries such as, the U.K., the U.S., Japan and Germany were all highlighted as reducing spend as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) between 2014 and 2018.

Conversely China, India, Indonesia and Russia were all highlighted as countries set to increase the amount of their budgets allotted for military capability.