WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department approved just under $70 billion in foreign weapon orders in fiscal year 2018, as the Trump administration stepped up its focus on increasing defense sales abroad.
The $69.7 billion in potential sales, spread over 70 individual notifications, fell short of last year’s record figure, during which the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of $75.9 billion. But domestic industry is unlikely to be bothered by the slightly lower total, as the number shows America’s dominance on the defense export market remains solid.
These numbers represent potential arms sales that the State Department has cleared through its processes; it does not represent actual sales. State ok’s the sale, then it is notified by the DSCA to Congress; if Congress does not reject the potential sale, it then goes into negotiations, during which dollar figures and quantities of equipment can change.
However, while not solid dollars, notifications are a notable way of tracking interest in procuring American arms from foreign partners, and can be a leading indicator of final sales to come.
Geographically, Europe dominated, with 31 notifications for a potential $37.34 billion. The Gulf and Middle East region came in second with $22.12 billion over 23 notifications, followed by the Asia-Pacific region with $8.85 billion on 12 notifications. Mexico ($1.39 billion on three listings) and Canada (one listing for $140 million) round out the list.
As always with FMS notifications, a few specific projects drive the total way up. A Saudi request for THAAD ($15 billion) and a Polish request for Patriot PAC-3 batteries ($10.5 billion) accounted for over a third of the total dollar value on their own. Belgium’s request for F-35s ($6.53 billion), Sweden’s request for Patriot systems ($3.2 billion) and Japans’ request for E-2D Hawkeyes ($3.2 billion) round out the top five largest requests.
Overall, 15 notifications came with an estimated price tag of over $1 billion.
In terms of total foreign military sales for the fiscal year, the Pentagon this week revealed in a report that through the end of August, the U.S. had inked $54.45 billion in foreign weapon deals, easily eclipsing the $41.93 billion total from FY17.
Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the DSCA head, is scheduled to speak at next week’s AUSA conference, where he may reveal the final FY18 total.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.