Combat aircraft accounted for one-third share in worldwide transfers of major weapons in the past five years, says a report on Wednesday.

While the US and Russia were the largest suppliers of combat aircraft, India was the leading buyer during the period 2005-2009, said the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

The US sold 341 fighter jets between 2005 and 2009, compared with 286 planes in the previous five years. However, Russia’s supply of combat aircraft fell to 219 from 331.

By purchasing 115 aircraft, India stood as the largest buyer in the world during the period.

India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Israel are by far the largest recipients of combat aircraft. Together, these three countries accounted for almost one-third of all imports of combat aircraft between 2005 and 2009, the report said.

Overall, as many as 995 warplanes were bought by 50 countries in the same period, according to the report.

While combat aircraft are often presented as one of the most important weapons needed for defense, these same aircraft give countries possessing them the potential to easily and with little warning strike deep into neighboring countries, said Siemon Wezeman, senior fellow with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Program.

Wezeman pointed out that acquisitions of combat aircraft thus clearly can have a major destabilizing effect on regions.

“Another dimension to be aware of is that seven of the eight states with nuclear weapons include combat aircraft among the systems for delivering these weapons, something not often discussed when exporting countries present sales of combat aircraft as major business opportunities,” Wezeman noted.

As the advanced combat aircraft cost $30 million each, the producers promote sales because they lead to substantial income and employment.

However, the acquisition and use of these weapons place a heavy burden on military budgets and the decision to acquire them will shape the direction of defense policy for years, the report said.