Most reports on the international arms trade only include hardware. By this reckoning the U.S. is the leading exporter followed by Russia, France, Britain, China, Germany, and Italy. But if you include military related services you get a new lineup. The U.S. is still first but is followed by Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Israel and Italy. Services include training, maintenance, consulting and all manner of exported knowledge and experience. Britain has been exporting these services longer and more energetically than anyone else and now has a well-deserved reputation that makes it a major player in this field.
The sharp growth in arms exports is largely because in the past decade global defense spending has increased nearly 50 percent to over $1.4 trillion. That's about 2.5 percent of global GDP. After the Cold War ended in 1991, defense spending declined for a few years to under a trillion dollars a year. But by the end of the 1990s it was on the rise again. The region with the greatest growth has been the Middle East, where spending has increased 62 percent in the last decade. The region with the lowest growth (six percent) was Western Europe. Spending growth has resumed now that the recession is over in many parts of the world. The Middle East, because of their continuing inability to produce enough locals who have the technical skills and motivation to maintain high-tech gear are a major customer for military service exports.