Special Report

The 25 Companies Making Billions Building The World's Weapons

This month, Department of Defense submitted its fiscal year 2024 budget request, for a grand total of $824 billion. If approved as-is, that would be an increase over the $816 billion DoD budget in FY2023. Even after its major wars in the Middle East — Iraq and Afghanistan — have ended, American military spending remains a gargantuan expense to U.S. taxpayers. 

Some of the main beneficiaries from the billions that go into this latest budget will be American military contractors. The world’s 100 largest defense contractors recorded over $592 billion arms and military services sales in 2021, up 1.9% in real terms from the previous year. And the vast majority of those sales – over 70% – went to the coffers of 25 industry giants. 

Using data on 2021 arms and military services sales from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 24/7 Wall St. identified the countries profiting most from war. Each of the 25 companies on this list is estimated to have topped $5 billion in arms and military services sales in 2021.

The world’s five largest defense contractors in 2021 – as measured by arms sales – are all headquartered in the United States. The U.S. military budget is by far the largest of any country in the world, topping $800 billion in 2021, more than the next nine countries combined. 

Much of that money goes directly to many of the companies on this list, including Lockheed Martin, maker of the fifth generation F-35 fighter jet, and Northrop Grumman, the company behind the newly unveiled B-21 Raider stealth bomber. Each of these weapons systems has a nine-figure price tag. (Here is a look at the 22 new weapons in the U.S. military budget next year.)

All told, 12 of the 25 largest defense contractors are headquartered in the United States, seven are in China, and the rest are in Europe and the United Kingdom. 

None of the companies on this list trade exclusively in arms and military services. In fact, 10 of the largest defense contractors derived most of their 2021 revenue from non-military contracts. Boeing, for example, manufactures a range of weapons systems, including the V-22 Osprey, a plane capable of vertical takeoff and landing. But nearly half of its 2021 revenue came from other divisions, such as commercial aircraft.

Click here to see the companies profiting most from war.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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