June 20, 2021

15 Largest Defence Companies in the World

this article we are going to list the 15 largest defence companies in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 5 largest defence companies in the world.

The defence industry is perhaps one of the biggest industries in the world, and is expected to be worth more than $1,600 billion by 2025. Surprisingly, the defence industry is not a very old industry; as an industry, you can track its inception to post World War II. During WWII and even before, manufacturers of cars or buses had to convert their factories into producing arms and ammunition to ensure the steady supply of weapons and defence material to ensure the superiority of their nation in any conflict. However, once the war ended, these countries started organizing their own defence industries, ensuring that they would not have to rely on the conversion of existing industries for their defense supply.

It was the Cold War and the impending threat of a major attack at any point that ensured the defence industry flourished and became quite sizable, with various defence companies growing signifcantly in size. However, once the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall fell, the human race became much more peaceful and defence spending actually decreased by a third from 1989 to 1996. Rather than stock up on traditional bulky weapons, money was instead focused on innovation and the development of new arsenal with joint ventures and mergers becoming very common amongst defence companies to pony up the capital required for such a capital intensive industry. In fact, many of the companies who were in the top 100 in 1990 entirely left the industry by the start of the 21st century, and mergers helped the remaining companies grow in size and stature, ready to combat any threat, though most wars by this period were fought regionally.

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Enter 9/11. If there was a single incident which has completely changed the outlook of nations across the world, then the first thing that comes to mind is 9/11, where terrorists hijacked four planes, destroying the Twin Towers and damaged the Pentagon while a fourth plane crashed into a field after passengers fought back, killing all on board. When all was said and done, 2,977 people had died, tens of thousands more suffered injuries, many of which were long lasting and causes over $10 billion in damages. This is still the worst terrorist attack in history and shifted the focus from nations fighting to fighting terrorists, and resulted in the US launching the War on Terror, which in turn has seen the collective displacement of around 37 million people in total, and has caused more deaths of civilians in other countries than terrorists.

Of course, that is not to say that all countries live harmoniously and peacefully now, and many regional conflicts are still ongoing. After all, Pakistan and India, bitter rivals since their separation nearly went to war in 2019 when Indian jets invaded Pakistani airspace and at least one was shot down and the pilot captured by Pakistan. Tensions between North Korea and South Korea remain extremely high, while the Middle East, and Israel’s relations with Arab countries, remain a source of uncertainty even after historic peace agreements with UAE and Bahrain. Because of these conflicts, many countries spend a lot on their defence, with America leading the charge as the most powerful military by far in the entire world, more of which you can learn about in the 10 most powerful militaries in the world in 2020. The US alone spends more on defence than the remaining top 10 combined.

The top defence companies in the world have a combined revenue in 2019 exceeding $319 billion, registering a strong 6% growth over 2018. As we mentioned earlier, the US spends a lot more in defence than any other country in the world, which is why the entire top 5 is dominated by American companies, and the top 15 has 6 American countries, and China is the second highest defence spending company in the world, and hence, logic dictates it hold the second highest number of companies in this list, and that logic does hold true, with 4 Chinese companies present in the list. The remaining companies are from Europe. Most of the companies in the list have revenues from other sources apart from defence too, though to ensure that our list is accurate, we have only compared revenues from defence for these companies. To come up with our rankings, we have considered their revenue for 2019 and 2018 as well, though we have assigned 70% weightage to the former as it is the most recent and hence, most relevant number. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the companies spending the most on defence, thereby helping their country’s offense, starting with number 15:

15. China South Industries Group Corporation

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 10,149

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 10,276

Founded 21 years ago in 1999, China South Industries Group Corporation engages in the production of firearms, artillery, radar, combat vehicles and commercial vehicles, and employs over 172,000.

14. China Electronics Technology Group

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 10,149

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 10,276

The China Electronics Technology Group is one of many Chinese state owned giants, which are biggest than most countries. The company employs nearly 180,000 people and is engaged in several fields including computers, electronic equipment, communication equipment, research services and has applications for both the civilian and the military sector.


13. China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 11,019

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 9,795

Select any industry and search for the largest companies in the world for that industry and you will find at least a few unimaginatively named state owned Chinese giants, and the defence industry holds true to this personal observation. China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation was found 21 years ago in 1999, and is headquartered in Beijing and its main involvement in the defence industry pertains to the building of warships for the nation.


12. Leonardo (BIT:LDO)

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 11,109

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 9,829

Leonardo is an Italian company which specialized in defence, security and aerospace. It is one of the biggest aerospace companies in the world and its revenue from the defence sector alone topped $11 billion in 2019. It was found 72 years ago in 1948, and has close to 47,000 employees.


11. Airbus (Euronext Paris: AIR)

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 11,266

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 13,063

In terms of total revenue, Airbus is the biggest aerospace company in the entire world, dethroning Boeing when Boeing saw a decrease of $25 billion in revenue while the revenue of Airbus increased at the same time. However, Airbus mainly focuses on commercial aircraft and that’s why a large part of its revenue is derived from making aircraft for commercial airlines. However, it does have important defence contracts as well, even though it is one of the few defence companies in the list whose revenue decreased in 2019.


10. China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 12,035

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 12,130

Please read above for what we said about Chinese state owned companies, and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation simply lends credence to my earlier statement. The company is involved in the design, manufacture, and development of a variety of products many of which are for the military, such as strategic and tactile missile systems and ground equipment, while also being involved in the national space exploration program.


9. L3Harris Technologies

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 13,917

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 12,303

L3Harris is another American aerospace giant and like most aerospace giants in the country, has extensive military involvement as well, involved in the creation of tactical radios, C6ISSR systems, wireless equipment, electronic systems and avionics. It was only formed in 2019 after the merger of L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation, and has 50,000 employees in over 400 locations.

General Dynamics Corporation (GD), NYSE:GD,

8. China North Industries Group Corporation Limited

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 14,771

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 14,777

This is a Chinese state owned defence contractor and was founded in 1988, 32 years ago. While it also has a range of civil applications, its fame and revenues are mostly derived from its military products and military defense projects. As you can see, it’s revenue has barely changed at all year on year, and even that is enough to ensure that it is considered as one of the largest defence companies in the world.


7. BAE Systems

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 21,033

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 22,477

BAE Systems is a British multinational aerospace, security and defence company, which is considered to be by far the biggest defence contractor in Europe, even though revenues fell to $21 billion in 2019. Its operations aren’t limited to just the UK, it is also one of the biggest suppliers to the US Department of Defence, and is involved in several major projects such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carriers, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Astute Class submarine.


6. Aviation Industry Corporation of China

Total revenue in 2019 (in billions of dollars): 25,075

Total revenue in 2018 (in billions of dollars): 24,902

Another Chinese state owned defence and aerospace company, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China is the largest defence company in China with over $25 billion in revenue in 2019. The company employs half a million people across the world and has over 100 subsidiaries with 27 listed companies. It’s total revenue was $65 billion of which $25 billion was attributable to defence and like most state owned Chinese giants, was founded in the 1990s, 1993 to be more specific.


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