UK F-35B Lightning Jet Cockpit Pilot Picture Crown Copyright
A UK F-35 Lightning prepares for take-off in May 2021 (Picture: Crown Copyright).
Weapons and Kit

UK named world's fourth-biggest defence spender in 2021

A new report says the UK moved into the world's top five military spenders in 2021, while the US remains the biggest spender by far.

UK F-35B Lightning Jet Cockpit Pilot Picture Crown Copyright
A UK F-35 Lightning prepares for take-off in May 2021 (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The UK was the world's fourth-largest spender on defence in 2021, according to a new report. 

The annual report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also revealed that global military expenditure exceeded $2trn for the first time.

The top five highest-spending nations together accounted for 62% of all global defence spending, it said.

According to SIPRI, the UK moved up two places from the previous year, accounting for $68.4bn – a 3% increase from 2020.

The UK was one place ahead of fifth-placed Russia, with Moscow spending $65.9bn – a rise of 2.9%.

The US has remained the world's biggest defence spender by some distance, spending $801bn in 2021 – a fall of 1.4% from 2020.

The report also said that, while European military spending has increased 19% since 2012, just eight of the continent's 26 NATO member countries met the 2% gross domestic product (GDP) target on defence spending. 

Nine European nations hit the GDP target in 2020.

The US remained the world's biggest defence spender in 2021 – spending $801bn (Picture: US Department of Defense).

SIPRI said the UK is the second-largest spender on defence within NATO, behind only the US. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine's military spending grew by 72% between 2014 and 2021 and has increased by 142% since 2012.

This upward trend was interrupted in 2021 when Ukraine's military spending fell by 8.5% to $5.9bn – 3.2% of the country's GDP.

Elsewhere, the UK, US and Australian trilateral security agreement – AUKUS – announced last year contributed to Australia's defence expenditure increasing by 4% from 2020 to $31.8bn. Since 2012, Australia's military spending has increased by 42%.

The top 10 countries with the highest military expenditure in 2021, according to SIPRI, were:

  1. United States $801bn
  2. China $293bn (estimated)
  3. India $76.6bn
  4. United Kingdom $68.4bn
  5. Russia $65.9bn
  6. France $56.6bn
  7. Germany $56bn
  8. Saudi Arabia $55.6bn (estimated)
  9. Japan $54.1bn
  10. South Korea $50.2bn 

SIPRI was established in 1966 and conducts research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Its annual reports on global military expenditure provide analysis based on open source information.