The war in Syria has shown us just how devastating a conflict can get. Millions of refugees are flocking to Europe and to other parts of the world looking for a safe haven after losing everything they had, except for their lives.
However, one man’s misery is another man’s profit. Arms manufacturers are always jumping at the opportunity to supply either side in a war conflict. There are literally billions of weapons to spread bullets across all continents (a quarter of which are in the US). After the end of the Cold War, demands declined but with new emerging powers such as India and China, the demand for arms has been steadily improving.
Now, here comes the hypocritical part – this growing demand is largely supplied by the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council (one-third of demand is supplied by the US). And let’s not forget that state leaders travel around the world endorsing the weapons manufacturers of their countries. These companies are making huge amounts of money, and where there’s money there is corruption as well, so most of them have been connected to corruption scandals.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has published a list of the most profitable arms companies, and here are the top 8:
8. United Technologies, USA – $13.46 billion USD
This large corporation is involved in many industries, and even though only 22% of its business is aimed at arms production, they have made it to the list of the most profitable arms dealers. United Technologies produce elevators, escalators, and the impressive Black Hawk helicopter which is in service in the US, Korean, and Columbian armed forces. Just like many other weapons manufacturers, United Technologies don’t like to play according to rules too, and in 2012 it was discovered that they have sold military technology to the Chinese government, which is a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. For doing so it was fined $75 million USD, but who knows how much they profited from it.
7. Airbus Group, Netherland – $15.4 billion USD
The Dutch seemed like a peaceful bunch, but it seems they too have a very developed arms industry. The Airbus Group is another company which is present in many industries, and although only 21% of their sales account for weapons manufacturing, they still made more than $15 million USD from it. They produce airplanes, drones, missiles, military satellites and space rockets. Again, they don’t always play by the rules and there have been allegations of corruption and insider trading, with millions of dollars being transferred to shady accounts on the Cayman Islands and the ‘most profitable’ allegation of them all – an under the counter deal with South African officials which was estimated at around $15 billion USD. If the name of the company sounds familiar it’s probably because they are also one of the largest producers of commercial jets.
6. Northrop Grumman, USA – $19.4 billion USD
This is the company that has given birth to the iconic B2-Spirit Bomber, which is every aircraft lover’s wet dream. It was completely different than any other aircraft when it appeared and there was something alien-like about it. A tactical stealth bomber with the capacity of carrying sixteen 1000kg nuclear bombs. Too bad it was introduced at the end of the Cold War, and even though it was used in operations in Kosovo and Iraq, there really wasn’t a need for it. So productions stopped, but Northrop Grumman has continued to produce aeronautical products. And guess what, they too have been connected to a scandal. They were named as the 62nd largest producer of air pollution in the US.
5. General Dynamics, USA – $20.94 billion USD
Now this is a company with a unique history and tradition. Their roots can be traced back to the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, which produced the first American submarine, way back in 1900. Today the company is focused on producing nautical and combat systems, information systems and technology, and aircrafts. They are a world leader in producing tracked and wheeled military vehicles, and they are the ones that produce the legendary Abrams tank, a long-lasting favorite of the American Armed Forces which gained its glory in the Persian Gulf War, where only 9 of them were destroyed (7 by friendly fire, and 2 were purposely destroyed after being damaged).
4. Raytheon, USA – $22.5 billion USD
Another American company, Raytheon, make their profit from producing guided missiles. Most of you have probably heard about the Patriot, Tomahawk, and Javelin missiles, but the company also produces some more terrifying weapons, such as a ray-gun which was tested on Californian prisoners. So, yes, they too have been connected to many scandals, maybe more than any other weapons manufacturer on this list. Where to start – first of all they have illegally obtained classified information, there’s the ray-gun scandal of using live prisoners as guinea pigs, and the scandalous Rapid Information Overlay Technology system (RIOT) which gathers data from various social media networks.
3. BAE Systems, UK – $26.85 billion USD
A lot of companies had to merge in order to create British Aerospace Marconi Electronic Systems, including the one which made the Concorde and the Harrier Jet – the world’s first vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. They use their priceless experience in creating aircrafts to make the Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets, which are used by the British RAF and several other European armed forces.
2. Boeing, USA – $27.61 billion USD
Yet another American company on the list and this one is a true Goliath in the industry. Boeing made a profit of $86 billion USD in 2013 and around a third of it comes from weapons sales. Its military arms department is jointly made up of the Military Aircraft and Missile Systems and Space and Communications divisions. The company produces commercial jets and, of course, fighter jets, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, and tactical bombers. Boeing constructed the famous F-15, F-22 Raptor (in collaboration with Lockheed Martin), F-18 Super Hornet and many other legendary jet fighters. However, they too have had their fair share of scandals with the company losing court disputes over industrial espionage and corruption and bribery.
1. Lockheed Martin, USA – $36 billion USD
Pentagon’s funds in 2009 were around $500 billion USD and 7% of it went to Lockheed Martin, so you can imagine how much they make a year. Their primary contractor is the US government and they employ more than 120,000 people – including a political network of lobbyists! They made the humongous Hercules plane and constructed the U2 spy-place, a legend of the Cold War era. They are also interested in creating the next generation quantum computing system, where their main competitor is Google. They are currently designing America’s next generation fighter jet, the F-35, but things aren’t going according to plans and the company is widely criticized by government officials for draining the budget but not showing any progress.