The business of America is bombs -- and business is booming.

According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, between 2005 and 2010 the United States exported $96 billion worth of weaponry to allies and client states. Care to guess how much arms we'll be trafficking in 2011? Better sit down first.

The magic number: $46 billion. This year we're on track to export nearly half as many weapons internationally as we shipped in the past five years combined. And that's just the tip of the high-explosive iceberg. DSCA tells us that at this very moment, the U.S. government is working through a backlog of 13,000 arms contracts with 165 countries, valued in total at $327 billion. So even as budget cuts are the order of the day in domestic military sales, overseas, business is still booming.

Who's set to benefit from this trend? A review of the major defense contractors and the geographical sources of their revenue streams provides a few clues.


Revenues From U.S.



Raytheon (NYSE: RTN) 77% 23% 10.3
General Dynamics (NYSE: GD) 82% 18% 10.0
L-3 Communications (NYSE: LLL) 87% 13% 9.7
Olin Corp (NYSE: OLN) 92% 8% 9.4
Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) 95% 5% 8.9

Now, mind you, this data isn't 100% complete. You'll notice that America's two biggest defense contractors aren't even on the list. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) doesn't break out its revenue sources geographically. Boeing (NYSE: BA) does, but when it tells investors that fully 41% of its revenues from abroad, it's hard to say how big the arms component of that revenue stream might be, given that Boeing also does big business in commercial airplanes.

What I can tell you is that according to DSCA, one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative pieces of the international arms trade is munitions. Rocketing militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, bombing bad guys in Iraq, and liberating Libya are all events eating up a lot of boom-sticks among U.S. allies. As DSCA reports, "Several nations participating in the NATO-led air campaign on Libya have … contacted the DSCA to replenish their stocks of ammunition depleted by the operations."

Foolish takeaway
For this reason, investors might want to pay special attention to Raytheon. It doesn't cost much more than its defense-contracting peers. It's focused more intently than anyone else on the international market. And it specializes in rockets, a commodity that tends to get eaten up quickly in air-to-ground combat operations.

Raytheon: Right place, right time, right stock.

Can Raytheon capitalize on America's role as arms supermarket to the world? Add it to your Fool Watchlist, and find out.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company named above, but The Motley Fool owns shares of Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and L-3 Communications Holdings, and Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of L-3 Communications Holdings. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.