In a perfectly ideal world, you wouldn’t need them. But since we, unfortunately, do not live in such a perfect world, countries need arms and military equipment to protect themselves against external threats and possible outside invaders. Armies first and foremost consist of human soldiers, but, for better or worse, in order to be able to defend their homeland (and in some cases also invade other countries), they need arms and other military equipment to be able to do that.
These arms and military equipment are manufactured by defense companies that act as defense contractors for their respective governments as well as the governments of allied countries. They produce and provide countries with weapons, tanks, missile systems, military helicopters, fighter jets, warships, submarines, and, increasingly, unmanned vehicles, and other equipment useful in war and the defense of countries.
The following ranking lists the Top Ten largest defense companies, which act as the world’s biggest arms and military tech equipment manufacturers. The ranking is based on the most recent revenue numbers achieved by the defense companies through their function as defense contractors. Only revenue generated by a company’s branches that sell arms, military equipment, and military tech is relevant for the ranking.
Top 10 Largest Military Defense Companies in the World 2024
1. Lockheed Martin
Lockheed Martin is the largest defense company in the world. The Maryland-based American company was created in 1995 by the merger of Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta Corporation and has since grown to be the world’s largest manufacturer of a wide array of different products for the military industry. Among the largest military defense companies, Lockheed Martin is one of three companies that make almost all of their revenue through the sale of arms and military equipment.
Lockheed Martin is especially well known for its fighter jets which are generally regarded as the most sophisticated in the global military aerospace industry. The company also produces other types of military aircraft such as transport and reconnaissance aircraft, Drones as well as helicopters. Furthermore, Lockheed Martin is also producing missiles, bombs, and a variety of military-use systems.
While Lockheed Martin primarily serves as a defense contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and is, therefore, the main supplier of the U.S. Army, the company has clients across the globe and belongs to the main military suppliers for a wide number of U.S. allies, especially NATO member countries.
RTX comes second among the largest defense companies in the world. The Virginia-based American company was formed in 2020 through the merger of Raytheon Company and United Technologies Corporation and was first called Raytheon Technologies, now renamed RTX. The company is renowned for its diverse range of defense and aerospace products. In its civilian branches, the company is among the world’s leading companies in the manufacture of aircraft engines, gas turbines, and air traffic management control systems.
Within the military industry, RTX is particularly distinguished for its expertise in developing advanced missile systems, radar systems, and other high-tech defense solutions. The company is involved in the production of various military technologies, including guided missiles, bombs, electronic warfare systems, and communication systems. It has played a crucial role in the development of cutting-edge technologies for both offensive and defensive military applications.
In addition to serving as one of the largest defense contractors for the United States Department of Defense (DoD), RTX has a global presence and provides its products and services to many allied nations. It has a significant role in supporting the defense capabilities of various countries, making it a key supplier for the U.S. Army, NATO member countries, and other U.S. allies.
3. Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman follows as the third among the largest military and defense companies in the world. The American company, based in Virginia, was established in 1994 through the merger of Northrop Corporation and Grumman Corporation. The company is one of threeof the ten largest defense companies to achieve its revenue almost entirely within the global military industry.
Northrop Grumman is renowned for its comprehensive portfolio of military-use aerospace systems, spanning a wide array of capabilities. The company has established itself as a key player in the development and production of advanced military aircraft, including bombers, airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft, drones, space systems, cybersecurity solutions, electronic systems, as well as missile systems.
Northrop Grumman primarily serves as a key defense contractor for the U.S. Department of Defense. Its products and services, however, are not only used by the U.S. military but also by numerous U.S. allied nations.
The Aviation Industry Corporation of China, better known as AVIC, is the fourth-largest in the global military and defense industry. The Beijing-based and state-owned Chinese company was founded in 1951 and has thus long been serving China as its main aerospace company. The company is primarily involved in the civilian aerospace industry, being China’s main manufacturer of civilian airliners and other non-military aircraft and one of the leading plane manufacturers in the world.
AVIC does have an increasing focus on the military and defense industry, however, and is now also among the world’s largest manufacturers of military aircraft. Its business operations cover the design, development, production, and maintenance of fighter jets, bombers, helicopters, military drones, avionics, and other military-use aerospace technologies and products.
As a state-owned company, AVIC is first and foremost acting as the main aerial military and defense contractor for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the official name of the Chinese Army, as well as other Chinese security forces. It contributes to the development and production of military aircraft, systems, and technologies. However, in recent years AVIC has managed to expand its presence beyond China is exporting its aerospace military products to various other countries, contributing to China’s efforts to become a major player in the global military aviation industry.
Boeing completes the Top Five of the largest defense companies in the world. Founded in 1916 by American industrialist William Boeing, the Chicago-based American company has since established itself as a major aerospace company with a significant impact on both the civilian commercial and military aerospace industries. Today, Boeing is the largest manufacturer of aircraft in the world. While it mainly manufactures commercial airplanes for civilian use, almost half of its revenue is now achieved through the sale of military-use aircraft.
As a major defense contractor, Boeing provides a wide range of products and services to its customers, which is mainly the U.S. government. The company is involved in the design and production of all kinds of military aircraft, and rotorcraft, but also of missiles, missile defense systems, and other defense technologies.
Boeing mainly produces its products for the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force, but among its government customers are also many other NATO member countries and U.S. allies.
6. General Dynamics
General Dynamics comes sixth among the largest military and defense companies in the world. The Virginia-based American company was founded in 1899, which makes it the by far oldest company among the leading companies in the military industry. Outside of its role as a major defense contractor, General Dynamics is involved in the private-use and business aviation industry and is a leading plane manufacturer in that field.
Within the military industry, General Dynamics is a major shipbuilding company through its many naval divisions. The company provides the U.S. Navy with military ships and submarines of all kinds. Additionally, General Dynamics is also among the world’s leading manufacturers of tanks, armored cars, and other land combat vehicles and systems.
The U.S. Navy has historically always been the company’s best and most major client. General Dynamics, however, also provides many U.S. allies with its land combat products.
7. BAE Systems
BAE Systems places seventh among the largest military and defense companies in the world. At the same time, the London-based British company is the largest military and defense company in Europe. BAE Systems was formed in 1999 through the merger of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems. It is now the UK’s major defense contractor and a very diversified company involved in essentially all fields of the military industry. It is among the companies that make their entire revenue inside the military industry,
BAE Systems is involved in the manufacture of military aeronautics, including drones, but also the manufacture of all types of military ships, submarines, and naval systems. The company furthermore is also globally leading in the design and manufacture of various land combat systems, especially tanks. It also specializes in bombs, missiles, and missile systems of many kinds.
BAE Systems is the main military supplier of the British Royal Navy, the British Royal Air Force, and other divisions of the British Army. However, BAE Systems has regional subsidiaries and through them is providing its products to many British-allied countries across the globe, especially to the USA.
China North Industries Group Corporation, better known as NORINCO, is the eighth-largest defense company in the world. The Beijing-based state-owned Chinese company was founded in 1980 and has been China’s main defense company for non-aerospace military products ever since. Most of the company’s revenue, however, stems from civilian branches, where the company is China’s leading company in fields such as the manufacture of heavy-duty equipment and various objects and devices for, among others, the oil, energy, and rail industries.
NORINCO is known for producing a diverse array of military products, including light, heavy, and specialized vehicles, as well as ground weapons, including a wide portfolio of firearms, and ground weapon systems. Most of the company’s revenue stems from civil branches, where the company is China’s leading company in fields such as the manufacture of heavy-duty equipment and various objects and devices for, among others, the oil, energy, and rail industries.
Within the military industry, NORINCO is known for producing a diverse array of military products, including light, heavy, and specialized vehicles, as well as ground weapons and ground weapon systems. It has been the main defense contractor of the People’s Republic of China for the past decades and remains the main arms and military vehicle provider for the Chinese Army. In recent years, the company managed to additionally expand well beyond the home market and is now providing arms and military equipment for many foreign armies as well.
9. L3Harris Technologies
L3Harris Technologies takes ninth place among the world’s largest military and defense companies. The Florida-based American military technology company was established in 2019 through the merger of L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation. The company is also involved in the development and manufacture of communication and aviation systems, with both military and commercial civilian uses.
Primarily, L3Harris Technologies does its business within the military industry. It is known as a military tech company and provides a wide range of sophisticated high-tech solutions in the areas of electronic warfare, different kinds of surveillance solutions, and directed-energy weaponry. It is also a leading designer and manufacturer of drones, both for aerial and naval uses.
L3Harris Technologies mostly acts as a defense contractor for the U.S. Government, especially the U.S. Department of Defense, but also various other U.S. government agencies. The company is also involved in many other markets in the world, however.
China South Industries Group Corporation, better known as CSGC, completes the ranking of the ten largest military and defense companies in the world. CSGC was established in 1999 and the state-owned company is based in Beijing. The company is primarily a car and general automobile company, generating most of its revenue through its subsidiary, Chang’an Automobile, a major civilian commercial car brand in China. However, the company is also acting as a defense contractor for the Chinese Army and manufactures various military-use products as well.
CSGC’s military-use products are primarily different kinds of combat vehicles including armored cars. But the company is also a leading manufacturer of munitions and firearms in China. The company also produces bombs and artillery systems. It is also involved in the development of radar systems.
CSGC functions as a defense contractor for the Chinese Government and therefore supplies the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) a.k.a. the Chinese Army.
The 10 Largest Military & Defense Companies in the World:
|1. LOCKHEED MARTIN
|HQ: Bethesda, Maryland, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $63.3 billion
|HQ: Arlington, Virginia, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $39.6 billion
|3. NORTHROP GRUMMAN
|HQ: West Falls Church, Virginia, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $32.4 billion
|HQ: Beijing, China
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $31.0 billion
|HQ: Chicago, Illinois, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $30.8 billion
|6. GENERAL DYNAMICS
|HQ: Reston, Virginia, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $30.4 billion
|7. BAE SYSTEMS
|HQ: London, England, UK
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $25.2 billion
|HQ: Beijing, China
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $18.0 billion
|9. L3HARRIS TECHNOLOGIES
|HQ: Melbourne, Florida, USA
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $13.9 billion
|HQ: Beijing, China
|Arms & Military revenue: ~ $13.5 billion
Top Ten military & defense companies in the world. The ranking lists the world’s leading military companies and arms, and military equipment manufacturers by revenue generated through the sale of arms and military equipment. Sales from other civilian-use branches a company may be involved in, are disregarded.