Editors' pick: Originally published Dec. 30.

President John F. Kennedy's predecessor President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the world about the dangers of a growing "military-industrial complex."

Since Ike coined that term during his farewell address in 1960, the military industrial complex has ballooned to mind-boggling proportions that would have made the president and five-star general blanch.

Sane human beings hate war, but expanding expenditures on aerospace and defense mark an unstoppable trend and huge, multi-year growth opportunity that investors shouldn't pass up.

Let's look at the top five defense contractors based in the U.S., according to revenue and size of pending contracts.

Global defense spending rose this year to $1.57 trillion, ushering in what is expected to be a decade of booming military expenditures around the world, according to the annual Jane's Defense Budgets Report from research firm IHS Markit.

Every December, the IHS Jane's Defense Budgets team produces the report, which examines and forecasts defense spending for 105 countries.

Highlights from this month's report include:

  • America's defense budget represents about 40% of the total global defense budget. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than $9.35 trillion has been allocated to the U.S. defense budget. During the presidential campaign, President-elect Donald Trump bemoaned what he characterized as a neglected and hollowed out U.S. military, which is clearly an absurd notion in light of these numbers. Nonetheless, he has promised to massively boost the Pentagon's budget. What's more, Trump's extremely hawkish and provocative foreign policy views almost guarantee an expanded military.
  • China's defense budget will nearly double within 10 years, to $223 billion in 2020 from $123 billion in 2010.
  • India's defense budget this year overtook Saudi Arabia's and Russia's to become one of the top five defense spenders globally for the first time.
  • Western Europe's aggregate defense budget should grow about $10 billion across the region over the next five years, as fears rise over an expansionist Russia that is allied with Trump.

The upshot: Investing in aerospace and defense is one of the surest ways to profit in what promises to be a turbulent year.

As many analysts call for a correction next year, America's top five defense contractors should weather the storm better than most other sectors.

Let's start with Lockheed Martin (LMT) - Get Report , Boeing (BA) - Get Report and Northrop Grumman (NOC) - Get Report .

As major manufacturers of combat jets and military planes, these three U.S.-based behemoths monopolize the global military aircraft business. They are mega-cap blue chips that are positioned to reap the lion's share of the spoils.

Lockheed Martin is number one in the U.S. and the largest in the world. In the U.S., Boeing is second and Northrop Grumman is fifth.

Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing also make military helicopters, with Lockheed Martin making the Sikorsky Blackhawk and Boeing the Apache.

Lockheed Martin's projected earnings growth this year is 7.70%.

It is pegged at 4.80% next year and 7.81% over the next five years on an annualized basis, compared with 9.36% over the past five years, according to the analyst consensus estimate.

Boeing's projected earnings growth this year is -8.20%, largely due to the vagaries of Pentagon budgeting, but it soars next year to 31.70%, according to the analyst consensus estimate.

Growth for the next five years is forecast at 10.19% on an annualized basis, compared with 14.24% over the past five years.

Northrop Grumman's projected earnings growth this year is 12.50%.

It is pegged next year at 3.20% and 9% over the next five years on an annualized basis, compared with 8.86% over the past five years, according to the analyst consensus estimate.

Raytheon (RTN) - Get Report  is the third-largest defense contractor in the U.S. and the largest missile maker in the world. The company's engineering expertise continues to be coveted by America's top brass and allies around the world.

The company also is a major play on the burgeoning use of drones.

Raytheon's projected earnings growth this year is 10.40%.

It is pegged at -0.30% and 8.31% over the next five year on an annualized basis, compared with 3.88% over the past five years, according to the analyst consensus estimate.

General Dynamics (GD) - Get Report  is number four in the U.S. The company provides combat vehicles; information technology solutions for the military; maintenance overhaul and repair for military aircraft; submarines; and surface ships.

The company's projected earnings growth this year is 7.60%.

It is pegged at 3.30% next year and 7.24% over the next five years on an annualized basis, compared with 8.71% over the past five years, according to the analyst consensus estimates.


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John Persinos is an editor and analyst with Investing Daily.

He is also an analyst with Teal Group, an aerospace/defense firm.

At the time of publication, he owned stock in BA and RTN.