The US defence industry landed at least $46 billion in military aircraft orders from overseas customers in fiscal year 2023, driving the sector’s total foreign sales of armaments to a record level.

American defence firms provided $80.9 billion-worth of equipment and support services through the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system during Washington’s FY2023, according to the US Department of State.

The diplomatic agency, which evaluates and approves FMS transactions, released its year-end compilation of overseas arms sales on 29 January.

“The total value of transferred defence articles and services and security cooperation activities conducted under the Foreign Military Sales system was $80.9 billion,” the state department says. “This represents a 55.9% increase, up from $51.9 billion in FY2022.”

Bahrain AH-1Z at Amarillo Assembly Center

Source: Bell

Bell completed deliveries of AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters bound for Bahrain in February 2023, handing over the 12th and final aircraft under that country’s programme of record

That figure represents the highest annual total of defence sales ever recorded, the department adds.

In addition to traditional arms sales and grants provided by Washington, the FY2023 numbers include sales under special programmes such as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, through which the USA has provided billions of dollars-worth of hardware to Kyiv in support of its fight against Russian invaders.

Aircraft sales worth some $46 billion helped power the record-setting year for the defence industry, with significant orders coming from Europe and Asia.

Among those were procurement agreements for Lockheed Martin F-35 fighters, including a $5.6 billion deal with the Czech Republic and a $5.1 billion sale to South Korea. Although deliveries of the advanced stealth aircraft are currently disrupted, Lockheed continues to see worldwide interest in the type.

Poland signed a $12 billion deal for Boeing AH-64E Apache attack helicopters during the fiscal year, Australia committed to acquiring Lockheed C-130J transports for $6.4 billion and Canada selected Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon as its new maritime patrol aircraft under a $5.9 billion deal.

F-35 assembly line - Lockheed Martin

Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 remains among the most popular – and lucrative – offerings to defence customers around the world, despite recent delivery setbacks

Also during the period, Germany and South Korea finalised orders for Boeing CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters ($8.5 billion and $1.5 billion respectively), while Japan selected Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Hawkeye for its airborne early warning and control aircraft, in a $1.4 billion deal.

The US government’s fiscal year concludes at the end of September, meaning sales finalised in the last three months of 2023 will be counted toward FY2024 figures.

Direct commercial sales (DCS), which allow customers to bypass lengthy FMS approval processes for less-sensitive products, also saw positive growth year on year, rising by 2.5% to $158 billion in FY2023.

Examples of DCS sales from the period include a $2.8 billion order from Italy for F-35 wing assemblies, a $1.8 billion order from India for GE Aerospace F414 jet engines and separate $1.2 billion orders from South Korea and Singapore for Pratt & Whitney F100 powerplants.

The DCS option is also emerging as a major selling avenue for helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, which is now offering a DCS-variant of its UH-60 Black Hawk multi-role helicopter.

The DCS Black Hawk, designated the S-70i by Sikorsky, is produced in Poland by subsidiary PZL Mielec.