UK the second largest defence exporter in the world with the industry supporting over 200,000 jobs

Wed 7 Jul 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

defence exports

The UK is the second largest global defence exporter on the planet after the US, accounting for 16% of the global market and with 207,000 jobs supported by the industry, new data has found.

Research from trade association Make UK, in association with Raytheon UK, shows that global defence and aerospace exports are valued at around £12bn.

This is equivalent to almost 5% of total UK manufacturing output, the report reveals.

High value

Andrew Kinniburgh, director of Make UK Defence, said the report underlined the strategic importance of the sector to the long-term health of the UK economy, providing high value, high-skill jobs across the country.

“The defence, aerospace, shipbuilding and rail industries are the cornerstone of advanced, high-value manufacturing in the UK,” he said.

“Competing in some of the most highly-skilled technologies and market around the world, together with their supply chains they will be critical to the future success of our economy as we recover”.

Top markets

The report listed the top five export markets for British defence and aerospace goods as:

  • France - £2.6bn
  • US - £2.4bn
  • Germany - £2.3bn
  • Canada - £474m
  • Norway – £460m

It also reports that the sector is the second biggest investor in research and development after automotive, accounting for 21% of overall UK spend.

Jobs in the sector pay 27% more than the manufacturing average.

Aerospace leads

According to a government report last year, aerospace accounted for almost 60% of all defence exports between 2010 and 2019 based on orders and contracts signed.

Land and sea defence exports had roughly equal shares at around 20%.


UK defence exports have come under scrutiny from human rights group Freedom House recently, the Guardian reported.

Between 2011-2020, the UK licensed £16.8bn of arms to countries criticised by the US government-funded human rights group.