5 SoCal Defense Contractors Protecting the Homeland

Lawren Henderson
Staff Writer at Cluster

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While their headquarters are scattered throughout the country, you can be sure to find satellites of the world’s largest defense contractors in Los Angeles and the surrounding SoCal area. Many of these organizations are publicly traded multinational companies that have undergone multiple mergers and acquisitions throughout their history. All five firms are absolute juggernauts when it comes to revenue and success in maturing aerospace and defense technologies.

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Los Angeles, CA

Founded 1942

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a leader in advanced propulsion systems and energetics. The company is best known for developing and manufacturing rocket motors for some of the most recognized missiles inside of America’s arsenal including the Tomahawk, Javelin, Patriot, and Stinger. In addition to being one of the Pentagon’s go-to companies, NASA turns to Aerojet to generate propulsion and power systems for launch vehicles headed to the International Space Station, the moon, and Mars. Aerojet is credited for building the 5 engines of the Saturn V rocket used in the Apollo space program. The publicly traded company counts about 5,000 employees and yearly revenue of $1.91 billion.  

Flir Systems

Goleta (Santa Barbara County)

Founded 1978

Flir develops and manufactures technologies to help our soldiers see better, and we’re not talking corrective lenses. The imaging company creates long-range thermal, visible, and radar systems allowing for better surveillance, reconnaissance, and successful mission completion. Flir’s visibility solutions, whether handheld or integrated into a drone or other vehicle, allow for the detection, assessment, and tracking of multiple targets and threats. Beyond defense, companies within the industrial sector (oil & gas, electric utilities), transportation, and others rely on Flir camera products for exceptional visibility and thermal imaging. The public multinational company has headquarters in Oregon, more than 3,000 employees, and racked up $1.78 billion in revenue in 2018.

Lockheed Martin

Palmdale – El Segundo – Goleta

Founded 1995

With $44.9 billion in arms sales last year and approximately 105,000 employees worldwide, Lockheed Martin is far and away the biggest defense contractor in the world. Its aeronautics business unit produces the F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II among other military aircraft. Then there’s its Missiles and Fire Control unit which engineers some of the world’s finest missiles, guided projectiles and launch platforms including laser weapon systems, multiple launch rocket systems, and powered exoskeleton technologies. It’s not exactly an Iron Man suit, but it’s getting there.

Northrop Grumman

LA County (multiple cities)

Founded 1994

Northrop Grumman’s Strike Program has a number of defense products in its portfolio, but perhaps none as recognizable as the B-2 Spirit Stealth bomber and B-21 Raider. These long-range strike military aircraft can deliver precision payloads anywhere in the world. The Pentagon awarded the company a $328 million contract to develop the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) which will replace the current Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system and modernize the country’s land-to-air nuclear payload delivery platform. The public company has multiple locations all over SoCal including Palmdale, El Segundo, Goleta, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and San Diego. Northrop Grumman counts over 85,000 employees and logged $30.1 billion in revenue last year.


El Segundo – Fullerton

Founded 1992

Soon to challenge Lockheed Martin for its crown, Raytheon’s capabilities are already immense. The company is a major player when it comes to air and missile systems used to defend against a full spectrum of threats, as well as cyber security and electronic warfare. We can’t forget its precision targeting unit which includes Sidewinders, Javelins, Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, laser guided bombs and smart weapons. The public company did about $25.35 billion in revenue in 2018 and has around 67,000 employees. Both of those figures will jump substantially if the merger proposed in June 2019 with fellow defense giant United Technologies is approved. The combined new company would make a run for the world's largest defense contractor by arms sales revenue.

Can’t get enough of our 5 SoCal series – check out our 5 SoCal Rocket Companies Reshaping Space Travel.

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Published on
October 6, 2019