Northrop Grumman, the third largest U.S. military contractor behind Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is best known as the producer of the hugely expensive B-2 Stealth bomber, fighter jets such as the F-14 Tomcat featured in the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun, and nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. In 2008 it scored a coup when it was chosen—along with its European partner EADS—to supply the U.S. Air Force with aerial refueling tankers worth some $35 billion. Rival bidder Boeing successfully challenged the huge award, and the competition is being run all over again.
Northrop was nearly gobbled up by Lockheed Martin during defense-sector consolidation in the 1990s, but antitrust issues undermined the deal. Northrop went on to carry out some major acquisitions itself, including the Litton and TRW conglomerates and Newport News Shipbuilding. Northrop has been involved in a series of false claims cases that the company has had to spend tens of millions of dollars to settle.