Light tanks, fighter jets and more: India 3rd largest military spender in world

In the pandemic year, the Stockholm-based SIPRI noted, US accounted for 39% of the money spent on military globally, China accounted for 13%, and India 3.7% of the global share

The Russian S-400 missile defence system is worth $5.43 billion.
Sprut light tank.

A few days ago, the Indian Army issued an RFI (request for information) for procuring 350 light tanks weighing less than 25 tonnes. The need for light tanks was felt during the recent standoff with China in eastern Ladakh. The massive indigenous 68-tonne Arjun, the Russian-supplied T-90 (Bhishma) and T-72 (Ajeya) are just too heavy to move around in the difficult terrains of Ladakh. There are reportedly two source countries of light tanks: Russia (Sprut tank) and South Korea (K21-105).

This year, India is also supposed to finalize the ‘mother of all acquisitions” 114 fighter aircraft worth ₹ 1.14 lakh crore. Top-of-the-line aircraft of the global defence market are vying for the deal. The necessity: Indian Air Force’s squadron strength has come down to around 30 from the sanctioned 42. Each squadron consists of roughly 18 aircraft.

India is also slated to get the Russian S-400 missile defence system worth $5.43 billion by the year-end, even as the country faces the prospect of sanctions from the United States.

Also read: China hikes defence budget to $209 billion, 6.8% increase


Added to the above spends are the ones on complex components, early warning systems, radars submarines, fighter aircraft engines, heavy and light guns and what have you – in the next decade or so.

Little doubt, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which tracks military expenditure and arms trade globally, has described India as the third largest military spender in the world in the year 2020.

As per SIPRI’s latest military expenditure database published on Monday (April 26), the US accounted for 39 per cent of the money spent on military globally, China accounted for 13 per cent, and India 3.7 per cent of the global share.

SIPRI said the US spent $778 billion in 2020, China $252 billion and India’s military expenditure was $72.9 billion. The three countries’ military spending went up in comparison with the year to 2019 – in a COVID pandemic year.

Also read: India ‘clears’ $3bn drone deal ahead of US Defence Secy’s visit

The global defence watchdog for military spending noted that US’ military expenditure was 3.7 per cent of its GDP while the comparative figures for China and India were 1.7 per cent and 2.9 per cent respectively. From 2011 to 2020, American military expenditure fell by 10 per cent, but China witnessed a 76 per cent growth while India’s military spending grew by 34 per cent.

The other top spenders included Russia ($61.7 billion), the UK ($59.2 billion), Saudi Arabia ($57.5 billion), followed by Germany and France (under $53 billion each).

SIPRI said that the total “global military expenditure rose to $1981 billion last year, an increase of 2.6 per cent in real terms from 2019” and the “five biggest spenders in 2020, which together accounted for 62 per cent of global military expenditure”.