Special Report

20 Companies Profiting the Most from War

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Though the U.S. has ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending will likely continue increasing. The House overwhelmingly passed a defense spending bill for $768 billion in December 2021. The bill would increase the Pentagon’s budget by $24 billion more than President Joe Biden requested and is expected to pass easily in the Senate.

Some of the main beneficiaries from this spending increase will likely be American military contractors. These companies are tasked with research and development of new arms and defense systems as well as with providing arms, munitions, vehicles, navigational systems, and more to the U.S. military. Worldwide, there are dozens of companies that sell billions of dollars each year in armaments and military services.

To determine the 20 companies profiting the most from war, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Top 100 Arms-Producing Military Services Companies, 2020. Companies were ranked based on SIPRI’s estimates of arms and military services sales in 2020. Some Chinese companies were not considered due to lack of sufficient data. Arms and military services sales figures came from SIPRI. Revenue figures for the latest fiscal year came from financial reports and corporate press releases.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic shook the global economy, arms sales continued to increase. The 100 largest military contractors sold $531 billion in arms and military services, a 1.3% increase compared to 2019, according to SIPRI.

Though many of these companies primarily work to develop new technologies for the military, these projects often end up having civilian applications. Many everyday items and technologies like microwaves, GPS, and even the internet were initially conceived of either by or for the U.S. military. These are 19 commercial products invented by the military.

Click here to see 20 companies profiting from war the most

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20. CSGC
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $33.9 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $5.4 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 16%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +13.0%

CSGC, short for China South Industries Group Corporation, is one of the 20 companies profiting the most from war, selling nearly $5.4 billion in arms and military services in 2020. It is one of five Chinese companies to rank on this list.

The state-owned military and defense technology enterprise, CSGC is headquartered in Beijing. It designs and manufactures weapons, ammunition, rockets, vehicles, and more for use by military and police in more than 170 countries and regions, according to China’s state media.

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Source: Courtesy of Booz Allen Hamilton via Facebook

19. Booz Allen Hamilton
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $7.9 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $5.5 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 70%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +5.4%

Ten of the 20 companies profiting the most from war are American, including Booz Allen Hamilton. Of the company’s $7.9 billion in sales in 2020, 70% came from arms and military services sales.

Booz Allen Hamilton’s arms sales increased by 5.4% from 2019 to 2020. The company said it plans to acquire other companies to pad its health care technology and cybersecurity capabilities.

Source: Sundry Photography / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

18. Honeywell International
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $32.6 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $5.8 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 18%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +7.7%

American defense contractor Honeywell International sold $5.8 billion-worth of arms and military services in 2020. The company manufactures and sells ground vehicles, planes, and helicopters as well as weapons systems and other technology.

Though Honewyell’s $5.8 billion in arms sales was among the world’s 20 highest totals in 2020, it accounted for just 18% of the company’s total annual sales. The company is also involved in health care, chemical and industrial manufacturing, and retail goods.

Source: GEORGE FREY / AFP via Getty Images

17. Almaz-Antey
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $6.6 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $6.0 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 92%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -31.0%

Though the COVID-19 pandemic threw much of the world economy into disarray in 2020, arms sales by the world’s largest defense contractors remained relatively flat, only increasing or decreasing by a few percentage points. This was not the case with Yet Russian defense contractor Almaz-Antey. The company’s arms sales declined by a 31% decline in arms sales, according to SIPRI.

As the Russian economy was severely impacted by the steep drop in oil prices worldwide, the country’s Finance Ministry proposed a multi-billion dollar cut in its military appropriations plan, which hit Almaz-Antey particularly hard. As much as 92% of the company’s total sales in 2020 were in arms and military services.

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Source: Courtesy of Leidos via Facebook

16. Leidos
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $12.3 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $7.3 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 60%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +15.0%

Leidos is a science and engineering company headquartered in Reston, Virginia. Though it also operates in the civil and health sectors, most of its business comes from its defense and intelligence divisions. Out of its $12.3 billion total sales, $7.3 billion were in arms and military services.

In May 2021, Leidos completed its acquisition of ship design company Gibbs & Cox, Inc. to enhance its maritime and naval operations and capabilities.

Source: U.S. Navy / Getty Images

15. Huntington Ingalls Industries
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $9.4 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $8.2 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 88%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +4.9%

Huntington Ingalls Industries bills itself as “America’s largest military shipbuilding company,” having made more than 70% of the Navy’s warship fleet.

From 2019 to 2020, the company’s arms sales increased by nearly 5%, from less than $7.9 billion to more than $8.2 billion, according to SIPRI. Just 12% of Huntington Ingalls Industries’ 2020 sales came from sources other than the military.

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14. Thales
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $19.4 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $9.1 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 47%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -5.8%

Thales is the only French company to rank among the 20 companies with the highest arms sales in 2020. The company’s $9.1 billion in arms sales in 2020 were 5.8% lower from its 2019 sales, a drop that the company attributed to COVID-19 interrupting its operations. Thales announced in 2021 the French military had selected the company to expand the satellite communications capabilities of several military branches.

Arms and military services sales accounted for nearly half of Thales’ sales in 2020. The company also operates in the digital security, aerospace, transit, and other technology industries, posting more than $10 billion through these business segments in 2020.

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13. Leonardo
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $15.3 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $11.2 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 73%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -1.5%

Leonardo is by far Italy’s largest arms maker, generating $11.2 billion in arms and military services sales in 2020. Headquartered in Rome, Leonardo also has offices in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and several other countries.

Leonardo sells products to multiple branches of defense, including land and naval electronics, information systems, helicopters, jet aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The company also manufactures weapons systems, torpedoes, and ammunition for naval and land artillery.

12. CASIC
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $37.7 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $11.9 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 32%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -2.8%

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, or CASIC, is one of the world’s largest military services providers. The company is controlled by China’s central government and is the nation’s largest missile manufacturer. It sold an estimated $12 billion-worth of arms and military services in 2020. SIPRI notes that this figure is an estimate with “a high degree of uncertainty,” due to the secrecy with which companies in China operate.

In June 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order barring Americans from investing in dozens of Chinese companies, including CASIC. Biden’s order expanded on President Donald Trump’s order, which also listed companies operating in the U.S. with ties to China’s military.

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11. Airbus
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $56.9 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $12.0 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 21%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +5.7%

With $12 billion in arms sales and military service, aeronautics company Airbus ranks as one of the companies profiting the most from war. The company moved up to the 11th largest arms and military services provider in 2020 after coming in 13th the year before, as its arms and services sales increased by 5.7%, a larger increase than most.

Airbus primarily provides planes and aeronautics equipment to private businesses, including airlines like Delta, American, easyJet, JetBlue. Just 21% of the company’s $56.9 billion in sales came from arms and military services.

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10. L3Harris Technologies
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $18.2 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $14.2 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 78%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +0.4%

For the second consecutive year, L3Harris Technologies ranks as the 10th largest arms and military services provider in the world. This follows the merger between Harris Corporation and L3 Technologies in June 2019.

L3Harris Technologies is a defense contractor that makes electronics, sensors, and networks for military applications for sea, air, land, and space. In November 2021, the company secured a $125 million contract from the U.S. Space Force to upgrade its Counter Communications System, which jam communications from satellites.

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9. CETC
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $34.3 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $14.6 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 43%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -6.0%

China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, or CETC, is a state-run company that works to modernize and upgrade China’s military. The company is an amalgamation of a number of longstanding research institutes that have been combined under the CETC umbrella. The company’s researches, develops, and sells products in many areas, including electronics, software, semiconductors, radar, and much more.

CETC’s arms and military sales figures are an estimate, as sales and military contracts in China are less transparent than they are in the U.S. or European countries. SIPRI estimates that the company had $34.3 billion in sales in 2020, $14.6 billion of which arms and military services sales.

8. AVIC
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $67.9 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $17.0 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 25%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -1.4%

Aviation Industry Corporation of China, also known as AVIC, sold $17.0 billion worth of arms and military services in 2020 — just a quarter of its $67.9 billion total sales for the fiscal year. Like every other Chinese military contractor on this list, AVIC is state owned.

A relatively new endeavor, AVIC was created in 2008 by a merger between two other aviation companies. The company and its subsidiaries create planes like bombers and fighter jets as well as helicopters, commercial airliners, and more.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

7. NORINCO
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $71.0 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $17.9 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 25%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +12.0%

China North Industries Group Corporation Limited, also known as NORINCO, is one of the largest arms dealers in the world. The Chinese company provides weapons and technical support to China’s military and police forces.

Though NORINCO has the seventh-highest sales total for arms and military services, it has the highest total sales figure of any company on this list, at $71 billion. Arms and military services account for a quarter of the company’s sales. NORINCO is also involved in China’s chemical, equipment, and IT industries.

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6. BAE Systems
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $24.7 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $24.0 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 97%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +6.6%

BAE Systems is a London-based defense contractor that manufactures aircraft, combat vehicles, ammunition, missiles, artillery, cybersecurity, IT, electronics, surface ships, and more for military applications.

Nearly all of BAE Systems’ sales come from arms and military services — 97% of the company’s $24.7 billion in sales in 2020. The arms maker is the largest military services provider headquartered outside of the United States.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. General Dynamics Corp.
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $37.9 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $25.8 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 68%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +3.9%

General Dynamics Corp. is one of the five largest arms and military services providers in the world for 2020. The Reston, Virginia-headquartered defense contractor sold $25.8 billion in arms and military services in 2020, accounting for more than two-thirds of its $37.9 billion in total sales.

In December 2021, General Dynamics was awarded a contract from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to support its networks, security, and cloud computing. The contract could run for a decade and be worth up to $4.5 billion.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Northrop Grumman Corp.
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $36.8 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $30.4 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 83%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +2.5%

Northrop Grumman Corp. is one of just four companies that sold more than $30 billion in arms and military services in 2020. Arms sales accounted for 83% of the company’s total sales that year and represented a 2.5% increase from the year before.

The defense contractor creates vehicles, navigational systems, technology, weapons, and more for applications on sea, air, land, and space as well as cybersecurity and communications.

Source: nycshooter / Getty Images

3. Boeing
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $58.2 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $32.1 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 55%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -5.8%

Aerospace giant Boeing is among the top three companies that profited the most from war in 2020. More than half of the company’s $58.2 billion in sales came from arms and military services, amounting to $32.1 billion. Though the company’s arms sales declined by 5.8% from the year before, Boeing remained the third largest military contractor in the world.

Boeing struggled overall in 2020, with total sales dipping by $19.6 billion compared to 2019, largely due to the decline in commercial aviation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, just 44% of the company’s total sales came from arms and military services. In 2020, that increased to 55%, the largest percentage-point jump of any major military contractor in the world.

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2. Raytheon Technologies
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $56.6 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $36.8 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 65%
> 1-year change in arms sales: -5.7%

Raytheon Technologies was recently formed via a merger between Raytheon Company

and United Technologies Corporation in 2020. It sold $36.8 billion in arms and military services in 2020, down by 5.7% from the combined arms sales of Raytheon and UTC from 2019.

Raytheon produces missiles, radars, sonars, weapons, and targeting systems, as well as maritime navigational systems. Raytheon is one of several companies the Pentagon recently selected to develop a missile system that could protect the U.S. from a hypersonic attack.

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1. Lockheed Martin Corp.
> Sales for most recent fiscal year: $65.4 billion
> Arms and military services sales in 2020: $58.2 billion
> Arms sales as pct. of total sales in 2020: 89%
> 1-year change in arms sales: +7.7%

Lockheed Martin Corp. retained its place at the top of the list of the companies profiting the most from war — a position it has occupied every year since 2009. The American military contractor sold $58.2 billion-worth of arms and military services in 2020, accounting for almost 90% of the company’s total sales. Lockheed Martin’s arms sales increased by 7.7% from 2019 to 2020.

The company suffered a high-profile flop in 2021, when the Air Force admitted that the stealth fighter jets Lockheed Martin had spent over two decades working on were a failure. The U.S. military wanted to replace the aging F-16s, but Lockheed’s attempts at designing new aircraft were consistently delayed, and once they were finally produced, they did not meet the capability rating benchmark the military wanted.

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