The 2014 year-end figures mark a nearly $1 billion dip from the $6.5 billion signed in 2013. According to the ministry, the 12.9% drop stemmed from a reduction in defense budgets and acquisition programs in the United States and Europe.
Last year's numbers are some $1.7 billion less than all-time highs recorded in 2009 and 2012. In those peak years, Israel reported $7.4 billion in new business, with more than a third coming from Asia-Pacific customers, and at least $1 billion coming from the North American market, Defense News reported.
This year, Asia-Pacific customers, at $2.96 billion, still accounted for more than half of the new contracts signed. Meanwhile, North America claimed $937 million in new orders, followed by Europe ($724 million), Latin America ($716 million) and Africa ($318 million).
While exports dropped in key areas like Asia and North America, where Israel is considered a major arms exporter, there was a 40% increase in exports to Africa over the preceding year, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.
In fact, countries in Africa and Latin America are the only ones in which markets are still expanding, a source at the Defense Ministry told the paper.
Israel's main exports were improvements to planes and aerial systems, telecommunications systems, ammunition and air defense systems, radar, unmanned aerial vehicles, precision weapons systems and advanced defense technologies, Israeli NRG news reported.
Last year marked only the second time that defense sales failed to reach $6 billion, according to records obtained by Defense News; sales did not meet the $6 billion mark in 2007 either.
Records show that the MoD recorded $6.54 billion in 2013; $7.4 billion in 2012; $7.1 billion in 2011; $7.3 billion in 2010; $7.4 billion in 2009; $6.3 billion in 2008; and $5.6 billion in 2007.
In a Thursday statement accompanying the 2014 defense sales figures, the defense ministry said that 2014 was challenging not only for Israel, but for arms suppliers worldwide.
"Export figures reflect the difficulties that even the leading exporters of defense systems have to contend with, including the global budgetary crisis – especially in developed nations – alongside increasing competition over each contract in existing markets," the defense ministry said.
Israel is still considered one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world.