The Ten Largest Defense Contractors in the World

America has gun fever, and most people know it. However, many who aren’t indoctrinated into gun culture may be surprised to find out just where many of those firearms are manufactured, and just how big the arms companies actually are – the top defence contractors in the world are located on the Northeast Seaboard of the United States. The U.S. loves its guns, and loves producing them. Billions and billions of dollars are spent by the military and private gun enthusiasts every year, purchased for a target practice, home defense, hunting or even just for show.

Defense contractors are the companies that supply firearms and other weapons to the government. From fighter jets to handguns, these corporations fuel the world’s desire for destruction. In the last fiscal year, the United States government spent over $300 billion on defense contracts. This makes for an extremely profitable business model for weapons manufacturers, though many around the world are dismayed by the enormous amount of money the U.S. spends on death and destruction.

Not only do these companies supply the physical weapons that soldiers use in combat, they also can offer logistics management, private security forces, intelligence operations, and even ships and airplanes. In fact, since the beginning of the war in the Middle East, private security forces are almost at a 1-1 ratio with government military forces. This causes many to question the ethics of governments employing these mercenaries, due to the fact that these corporations have histories of killing civilians and going overboard in detaining enemy combatants. Many around the world do not approve of governments hiring militias to do their dirty work, but it is something that people will probably just have to get accustomed to. There’s too much money to be made in war. Here are the world’s top- ten defense contractors, sorted by total yearly sales.

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10 United Technologies Corporation - $11.64 Billion

With total arms sales of $11.64 billion in 2011, the tenth- largest defense contractor in the world is United Technologies Corporation. Located in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, the company is best known for producing the Blackhawk Helicopter, which is instrumental in military operations around the world. Founded in 1975, it has produced a vast range of products for private and government contracts. In 2012, the company was found to be selling military technology to the Chinese, violating an embargo imposed by the U.S. government. The company was fined $75 million for their indiscretion.

9 L-3 Communications - $12.52 Billion

L-3 Communications, founded in 1997 by Frank Lanza, Robert LaPenta, and Lehman Brothers, is the ninth- largest arms manufacturer in the world. With total sales of $12.52 billion in 2011, they manufacture many of the world’s surveillance, intelligence, and command and control products. L-3 primarily utilizes acquisitions and mergers to grow. Since its inception, L-3 has acquired or merged with 15 different companies, expanding its business to Australia and the United Kingdom. These acquisitions have led them to become one of the world’s top- ten defense contractors. Like United, L-3 has recently found itself in a bit of hot water. Early in 2010, the U.S. Air Force found that L-3 was using government systems to mine data to benefit their business. The Air Force suspended all operations with L-3 until July 2010.

8 Finmeccanica - $14.56 Billion

In 2011, Finmeccanica had total sales of $14.56 billion, making it the eighth largest defense contractor in the world. The first non- U.S. based company on this list, Finmeccanica is located in Italy. It is the largest technology firm in Italy, leading the country’s tech sector sales by a large margin. The Italian government owns 30% of the company, which has offices in more than 100 other countries. Interestingly, Finmeccanica also owns Afla Romeo, which is an iconic Italian car brand. Like many other defense contractors on this list, Finmeccanica has had its share of scandal. According to The Syrian Files, released by Wikileaks, Finmeccanica was providing weapons and communications equipment to the Syrian Government during the Syrian uprising.

7 EADS - $16.39 Billion

European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V., (EADS), had total sales of $16.39 billion as of 2011, and is seventh on the list of the world’s top arms manufacturers. Though registered in the Netherlands, it is a pan-European corporation. In 1997, the EU decided it needed to merge many of the defence contracts it held, so the EADS was created. EADS is a subcontractor for a $35 billion aerial refueling aircraft project, which could eventually balloon to as much as $100 billion.  Besides military hardware, EADS also constructs commercial aircraft, satellites, and spaceships.

6 Northrop Grumman - $21.39 Billion

Northrop Grumman is based in Virginia, and had sales of $21.39 billion in 2011. This makes it the 6th largest defense contractor in the world. It was founded in 1994 through a merger, and manufactured one of the most iconic air fighters in history, the B-2 stealth bomber. The slick black design is plastered around the bedrooms of kids who dream of flying planes, and was the ultimate in stealth technology in its heyday. NG is also the top provider of IT solutions to governments around the world. In 2012, Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract worth $490 million to help develop the U.S. Air Forces Virtual Training Network.

5 Raytheon - $22.74

Raytheon is the world’s leading producer of guided missiles. In 2011 it reached $22.74 billion in total sales, bringing it into the top- five defense contractors in the world. In addition to guided missiles, Raytheon produces air traffic control sensors, communications equipment, satellites, simulators, and virtual training devices. Raytheon has been under the public microscope rather frequently, under investigation in the early 90’s in regards to illegally obtaining classified information when trying to bid for a contract. More controversy surrounded the defense giant during the Persian Gulf War, when the Patriot missile was touted as an amazing anti- aircraft weapon. In reality, it was not as effective as the American public was led to believe.

4 General Dynamics - $23.76 Billion

With 2011 sales of $23.76 billion, General Dynamics ranks 4th on the list of largest defense contractors in the world. Another mega- corporation created through mergers and acquisitions, General Dynamics has consolidated itself into four main departments: Marine, Combat, IT and Aerospace. General Dynamics traces its roots back to the Holland Torpedo Company, which was the creator of the first submarines. It became General Dynamics in 1952, and has operated under that name ever since.

3 BAE Systems - $29.15 Billion

In 2011, BAE Systems saw sales of $29.15 billion, making it one of the top three defense contractors. The largest non-America based defense contractor in the world, BAE Systems is headquartered in London, UK. The company, like many of its fellows, has been subject to controversy, stemming from accusations of arms dealing and allegations of corruption. It produces the F-35 Lightning, and also manufactures many of the world’s aircraft carriers.

2 Boeing - $31.83 Billion

Boeing is a recognizable multinational corporation, and one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers. With sales of $31.83 billion in 2011, it is the second-largest defense contractor in the world. Boeing is based in Seattle, Washington, USA, and has produced some of the most widely-used commercial aircraft in the world, such as the 737, 777 and 747. Like nearly every other company on this list, Boeing has had its share of scandal. In 2003, the CFO was accused of artificially inflating prices to raise profits. The CEO and CFO were terminated by the Board of Directors.

1 Lockheed Martin - $36.27 Billion

With total sales of $36.27 billion, Lockheed Martin is far and away the largest defense contractor in the world. 78% of the company’s sales revolve around arms dealing. In 2008, it received over $36 billion in defense contracts, the most ever by a single corporation. Lockheed Martin is a huge multinational corporation, and has developed everything from the C-130 carrier aircraft to cruise missiles and submarines.

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