Oldest Defense Contractors

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The Oldest Defense Contractors: A Look Back at Centuries of Military Innovation

Defense contractors have been supplying weapons, vehicles, and services to militaries around the world for centuries, adapting to changing technologies and geopolitical contexts. Some of these companies have survived wars, revolutions, and economic upheavals, remaining active and influential to this day. In this article, we will explore some of the oldest defense contractors in the world, their histories, and their current status.

1. BAE Systems: Founded in 1999 through a merger of British Aerospace and Marconi Electronic Systems, BAE Systems traces its lineage to the Royal Gunpowder Factory of Waltham Abbey, established in 1665. Over the centuries, the company evolved from making gunpowder to aircraft, missiles, tanks, and submarines. BAE Systems currently employs over 85,000 people in 40 countries, has a revenue of over 18 billion pounds, and supplies equipment and services to the UK, US, and other allies.

2. Boeing: Although best known for its commercial airplanes, Boeing has also been a major defense contractor for over a century. The company was founded in 1916 in Seattle, Washington, as the Pacific Aero Products Company, later renamed Boeing Airplane Company. During World War I, Boeing produced training planes for the US Army Air Service, and in World War II, it built thousands of bombers, fighters, and transports. Since then, Boeing has developed and delivered a wide range of military aircraft, satellites, missiles, and ground vehicles to various customers, including the US military and foreign governments. Boeing currently has approximately 160,000 employees in 65 countries, with a revenue of over 58 billion dollars.

3. Lockheed Martin: Born in 1995 from the merger of Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin has roots dating back to the early 20th century, when both companies started building airplanes and rockets for the US military. Lockheed Martin has since expanded its portfolio to include advanced fighter jets (such as the F-35 Lightning II), missile defense systems, space exploration vehicles, and cybersecurity solutions. With over 110,000 employees and a revenue of over 59 billion dollars, Lockheed Martin is one of the largest defense contractors in the world, serving customers in over 70 countries.

4. Raytheon Technologies: Another recent merger, Raytheon Technologies was formed in 2020 by combining Raytheon Company and United Technologies Corporation. Raytheon has a history of over 90 years, during which it developed and produced a wide range of defense products, from radar systems to missile guidance systems, from naval weapons to cybersecurity solutions. United Technologies, on the other hand, specialized in aerospace and building technologies, creating engines, avionics, elevators, and climate control systems. Raytheon Technologies continues to operate in these areas, as well as in space systems and advanced materials, with over 195,000 employees and a revenue of over 77 billion dollars.

5. Saab Group: Based in Sweden, Saab Group has been a defense contractor since 1937, when it started producing aircraft and military vehicles for the Swedish Armed Forces. Since then, Saab has expanded its reach to include naval systems, electronic warfare, and civil security solutions, as well as joint ventures in other countries. One of Saab`s most famous products is the Gripen multirole fighter plane, which has been sold to several countries, including Brazil, Hungary, and Thailand. Saab Group currently has over 17,000 employees and a revenue of over 4 billion dollars.

These are just a few examples of the oldest and most successful defense contractors in the world, but there are many more, each with their own stories of innovation, determination, and adaptation. As military technologies continue to evolve, defense contractors will likely continue to play a vital role in shaping the future of warfare and security. By balancing the needs of their customers, their employees, and their shareholders, these companies will face new challenges and opportunities, but their legacies will endure.

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