France surpassed Russia as the second largest arms exporter

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) is greeted by Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan during his tour of the French pavillion at the Dubai Expo on the first day of his Gulf tour on December 3, 2021. - The UAE signed among other deals today a record, 14-billion-euro contract for 80 French-made Rafale warplanes and committed billions of euros in other agremments as Macron kicked off a Gulf tour that will also take him to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

Reports of new deals to sell French arms to India and Qatar are just the latest sign that France’s defense industry is gaining pace. The news comes as Russian arms exports decline in the wake of the war in Ukraine, leading to speculation that France could soon take its place as the world’s second-largest weapons exporter after the United States.

At this year’s Bastille Day military parade on July 14, French President Emmanuel Macron was joined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was also not just French forces on display.

On the ground, Macron and his guest of honour watched as the Indian Tri-Services contingent made their way up the Champs-Élysées. In the air, the Indian Air Force performed a fly-past in French-made Dassault Rafale fighter jets.

To anyone closely following the international arms trade, this will not have come as a surprise. The day before, New Dehli gave initial approval for an order of six Scorpène submarines and 26 Rafale jets for the Indian Navy. Two weeks later on July 25, France’s La Tribune newspaper reported Qatar is considering adding another 24 Rafales to their stockpile.

A review of orders late last year and so far in 2023 indicates this pattern is set to continue. “The trends are very clear for France,” said Pieter Wezeman, the author of the SIPRI report.

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