The record numbers of the arms market, worth billions of euros, in which Italy is the protagonist

Over 20 billion euros in turnover and two Italian companies in the top places in the ranking of the main arms producers in the world. Italy is the sixth largest country in the world in the defense sector (latest Sipri report). All in a context that promises further gains for the war and weapons industry in general. Global military spending hit in 2023 i 2,500 billion dollars (ninth consecutive increase), the ongoing wars do not stop (indeed) and a few days ago the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen invited the 27 Member States of the Union to increase investments in weapons over the next five years.

Italy has always produced weapons. It's about submachine guns, classic rifles, personal defense pistols. But also and increasingly of helicopters, bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles and accessories. A market with tens of billions of euros of concentrated turnover, looking at the turnover, in a few companies. Leonardo and Fincantieri dominate. In 2022 they exceeded 15 billion dollars (equal to 12% of the turnover in Europe and 2.6% of the global turnover). Together they represent approximately 80% of the turnover of the Italian military industry. Leonardo globally has 51,391 employees (2022) distributed 63% in Italy, 15% in the United Kingdom, 14% in the United States, 0.5% in Israel and 2.5% in the rest of the world. The military part now represents 83% of the company's turnover. Fincantieri which has a strong activity in cruise ships, but in the last two years the share relating to the production of warships has gone from 20 to 36% of total turnover. It has 20 thousand employees worldwide, of which 10,445 in Italy (52%) and 9,640 abroad.

And beyond Leonardo and Fincantieri? There are, in terms of turnover and exports: Avio Aero, Thales Alenia Space Italia, Avio Space Propulsion, MBDA Italia, Iveco Defense Vehicles, ELT Elettronica, Rheinmetall, Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta. Together with Leonardo and Fincantieri they represent 90% of the overall turnover in the military field.

According to data from The Weapon WatchObservatory on weapons in European and Mediterranean ports, in the last six years there have been 212 Italian companies that have been authorized to export armaments with a turnover of 22.5 billion euros in 2019, 20.1 billion euros in 2020 and 22 .9 billion euros in 2021.

A sector that employs 52 thousand workers, 30 thousand in the military field alone (0.8% of employment in the Italian manufacturing industry), according to the Federation of Italian Companies for Aerospace, Defense and Security – AIAD. Looking at the period 2018-2022 (latest data available) Italy covered 3.8% of global arms exports. And 67% of exports go to the Middle East.

The world ranking of weapons manufacturers is always dominated by the Americans (first of all Lockheed Martin with 59 billion euros in turnover, followed by Raytheon Technologies, Northop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics). Then there are China and Russia. But the first European company in the ranking is Italian. Leonardo is in thirteenth place, with 12.4 billion in revenues.

To find another Italian in the top 100 we go down to 46th position. Fincantieri is located there with 2.5 billion in revenues. And the stock market is also pushing the sector. The Leonardo stock, a giant controlled by the state for 30%, has grown by 49% in the last six months, +13% in the last month alone. In total, European companies reached 111 billion euros in revenues. Italy has broken through the 20 billion euro mark.