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Biggest Swiss-based arms manufacturers revealed

Published on 16/07/2020

Exporting arms is big business for Switzerland, but who are the actual manufacturers and exporters? After a five-year legal dispute, names can finally be published.

Swiss companies exported CHF501 million ($530 million) in war materiel in the first half of 2020, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said on Tuesday, almost twice as much as the same period in 2019.

After a five-year legal dispute with SECO, Swiss news magazine Die Wochenzeitung (WOZ) on Thursday published the names of arms manufacturers based in Switzerland. SECO had to provide the information following a ruling by the Federal Court.

The top ammunition exporter is government-owned Ruag Ammotec. RWM Schweiz (medium-calibre ammunition) came second, while RWM Zaugg (fuses) came third. Both belong to the German company Rheinmetall.

Regarding specific exports, WOZ said only one group was transparent: the Norwegian Nammo Group, which has a cartridge in its logo. The Swiss subsidiary in canton Valais confirmed it produced ammunition fuses for the M72 rocket launcher.

Globalised business

As the analysis of the data shows, the arms trade has long been a globalised business. A dozen large corporations are responsible for the majority of Swiss arms exports: in 2017 they held over 80% of export licences.

“Undisputedly the most important player is Rheinmetall, which has several branches in Switzerland,” WOZ wrote. In 2017 these subsidiaries together held export licences worth CHF1.1 billion, around 60% of the total export sum.

WOZ said another example of international integration was the Thurgau tank builder Mowag. It is owned by the US arms group General Dynamics, which bought numerous European military vehicle manufacturers in the early 1990s.

The Armaments Report has a detailed map of arms manufacturers in Switzerland.


This year, war materiel was exported to 55 countries. Air defence systems and armoured vehicles were the two main items. The largest importer of Swiss war materiel this year so far is Indonesia, with deliveries worth CHF110 million (for air defence systems). Botswana was another big client, with CHF64 million worth of armoured vehicles.

Among European customers, Denmark tops the list, spending around CHF80 million on armoured vehicles. Romania follows in second place with an export value of almost CHF58 million.