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US aerospace & defense sector fires off $146 billion in exports

The U.S. aerospace and defense industry has set a new record for international sales in 2016, delivering $146 billion in exports, according to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).

The AIA said it is the fifth consecutive year of record gains and generated a trade positive balance of $90.3 billion, the largest surplus of any U.S. industry.

Aerospace product line, industrial
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The bulletin, released Monday, said the largest sales growth in American aerospace and defense came from the Middle East with a 22.3 percent rise and Europe which logged a 13.6 percent increase.

By total value of sales, Europe and the Asia-Pacific were the biggest buyers over 2016.

"In 2016, Europe edged-out the Asia-Pacific region as the industry's largest export destination, posting $49.9 billion in U.S. exports, compared to the Asia-Pacific's $49.5 billion," read the report.

Civil aerospace exports accounted for 85% of total A&D exports from the United States in 2016, while the defense sector accounted for the remaining 15%.

The AIA warned that under the headline figure, there were signs of a slowdown.

"Despite posting new records, A&D export gains continued to level off in 2016 as a result of lower export volumes from the industry's civil aerospace sector," the quarterly bulletin read.

Exports of civil aerospace products including aircraft, engines and parts totaled $123.7 billion – a 1.6% year-on-year increase over 2015 but lower than the gains seen for the two previous years.

The AIA based its findings on data harvested from the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Census Bureau.