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Switzerland’s war materiel exports reach record level

Some of the biggest Swiss weapons manufacturers include Ruag and Sig Sauer. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Swiss companies exported tanks, weapons, and other war materiel worth CHF955 million ($1.02 billion) to 60 countries in 2022. This is nearly a third more than last year, and the highest level ever recorded.

The total value of war materiel exports in 2022 exceeded the previous record set in 2020 (CHF901.2 million) by 6%, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs reported on Tuesday. War materiel exports represent 0.25% of Switzerland’s total exports, up from 0.21% in 2021.

+ The controversial lucrative business of Swiss arms deals

The greatest increase in demand came from Asia. Some 35.1% of war materiel exports went to Asia in 2022 compared to 10.9% in 2021. Europe’s share fell from 65% to 50.4%, and in the Americas from 13.3% to 7.1%.

Qatar was the main customer, purchasing CHF213.4 million worth of war materiel. This included a CHF194.3 million air defence system for stadium security during the FIFA World Cup last winter.

Denmark (CHF136.2 million) was the second biggest buyer, followed by Germany (CHF131.7 million), Saudi Arabia (CHF111.1 million) and the United States (CHF61.5 million).

Mainly tanks and ammunition

The main exports were armoured vehicles (26.5%), ammunition and ammunition components (24.8%), weapons of any calibre (24.8%), and fire control equipment (16.8%). The small arms category and components of combat aircraft each accounted for five percent.

The largest transaction was the air defence systems to Qatar, followed by tanks to Denmark for CHF130.3 million, and supplies of spare parts for air defence systems to Saudi Arabia for CHF65.1 million. Tanks valued at CHF33.3 million were also sold to Botswana.

Arms in wartime

Switzerland’s neutrality laws forbid the export of war materiel to countries in conflict. This applies to the war in Ukraine as well. Switzerland hasn’t allowed exports to Ukraine since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. “This law remains applicable during Russia’s current military aggression against Ukraine,” writes Seco.

Parliament is currently debating whether to relax rules that prevent ammunition it manufactures from being re-exported from another country to Ukraine.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR