Developing countries have entered a dangerous "arms race" in the last five years with huge sums ploughed into combat aircraft, a leading defence think-tank said on Monday.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in an annual report that global arms sales had risen 22 percent in the period from 2005 to 2009 compared to 2000 to 2004.
Imports of combat aircraft accounted for 27 per cent of the volume in the last five years.
"Orders and deliveries of these potentially destabilising weapon systems have led to arms race concerns in the following regions of tension: the Middle East, North Africa, South America, South Asia and South East Asia," it said.
According to the expert in charge of the report, Paul Holtom, resource-rich countries were setting the trend by using their earnings to build out their combat aircraft fleets.
"Neighbouring rivals have reacted to these acquisitions with orders of their own. One can question whether this is an appropriate allocation of resources in regions with high levels of poverty," he added.
In the case of South America, the institute found arms imports "were 150 per cent higher during the last five years compared to the beginning of the millennium.
"We see evidence of competitive behaviour in arms acquisitions in South America," said SIPRI Latin America expert Mark Bromley.
"This clearly shows we need improved transparency and confidence-building measures to reduce tension in the region."
Brazil is currently looking to buy 36 combat aircraft with the French-made Rafale, Sweden's Gripen and the US F/A-18 in the running for the contract.
South East Asia also saw a dramatic increase between 2005 and 2009 with Malaysia ramping up its arms imports by 722 percent, Singapore 146 percent and Indonesia 84 percent.
The increase in arms imports to Singapore made the island country the first member of ASEAN to make SIPRI's list of top 10 biggest arms importers since the end of the Vietnam war, giving the nation seventh place overall.
"The current wave of South East Asian acquisitions could destabilise the region, jeopardising decades of peace," said SIPRI Asia expert Siemon Wezeman.
Vietnam has also been busy building up its military capabilities, ordering submarines and long-range combat aircraft in 2009.
Like Singapore, Algeria made it into the list of top ten biggest arms importers for the first time with the ninth place.
The United States kept its position as the world's biggest arms exporter, accounting for 30 per cent of global volume. The Asia Pacific region took in 39 per cent of US arms exports followed by the Middle East with 36 per cent.
Combat aircraft made up 40 per cent of Russian exports of conventional weapons and 39 per cent of US deliveries.
The report is available on the Internet site: www.sipri.org/databases/armstransfers.