First foreign firm cracks US defense industry’s ‘Big 5′

The merger of Northrop Grumman and TRW in 2002 created the “Big 5″ club of US defense contractors — namely, Boeing, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

But a foreign-owned company — BAE Systems PLC — broke into the exclusive group in 2008, displacing Raytheon, which moved to sixth. Here’s the updated chart from


BAE is only one of several European companies that have made huge inroads into the US domestic defense market since the 1990s. EADS, Finmeccanica and Thales are also deeply invested on US territory, despite persistent calls for a protectionist stance on defense industrial policy.

A few months ago, BAE Systems’ top US media rep Greg Caires provided me with comprehensive briefing of the company’s current footprint in North America. I transcribed the paper briefing into the a PowerPoint file above.


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6 Responses to First foreign firm cracks US defense industry’s ‘Big 5′

  1. Royce 10 February, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    “…despite persistent calls for a protectionist stance on defense industrial policy.”

    You could also phrase this as, ‘despite persistent allegations that the U.S. defense market is closed to Europeans.’ It would be interesting to see where the big American firms stand as contractors for the French, German, British, and Spanish defense markets.

  2. Anonymous 12 February, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    @ Royce: US defense strategy and budget differs greatly from the seperate European countries in ambitions and size which results in products not needed in Europe. European countries don’t have a need for large aircraft carriers, a huge strategic transport fleet, F22′s, ballistic missiles, LCS’or global satelite systems. These high end defense products are making the big bucks in the US. At the same time less money was spend on R&D on smaller capabillities in which European companies (BAE) do better in.
    Second: BAE is being viewed as a European firm but US legislation only allows foreign firms to enter their market if the work will be done by Americans on US soil. Therefore a lot of the taxpayers money stays in the US and also means a huge investment on the companies side.
    Third: buying American is for Europeans a long, insecure and tideous road because more often than not US congress blocks export of military technology.

    PS. English is not my native tongue so forgive my poor English.

  3. Observer 15 February, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    No need to get overly excited or emotional over this… what the data and most reports doesn’t indicate, is that the bulk of BAE’s sales to the DoD is from BAE Systems North America – the successor to legacy companies such as Sanders and Tracor. It’s AMERICAN technology and jobs those defense dollars are going to.

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