Raytheon is an American arms industrial corporation and the world’s largest producer of guided missiles.

Raytheon was founded as the American Appliance Company in 1922 by Laurence Marshall and Vannevar Bush who had been roommates at Tufts University engineering college. The scientist Charles Smith also joined them in establishing the company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Initially the company focused on refrigeration technology but soon shifted to electronics. In 1925, the company changed its name too Raytheon Manufacturing Company, named after the electron tube ‘Raytheon’ that the company was marketing as substitute for batteries. The company expanded by acquiring Q.R.S. Company and Acme-Delta Company, which manufactured electron tubes and power equipment respectively. By the 1830s, Raytheon became one of the largest vacuum tube manufacturing companies in the world.

During the Second World War, Raytheon received a contract from the Massachusetts University of Technology’s Radiation Laboratory to mass-produce the magnetron, a specialized microwave generating electron tube to detect enemy aircraft with radar. During the war, Raytheon also manufactured shipboard radar systems for submarine detection. The company experimented with the magnetron’s microwaves potential to cook food and in 1945 the microwave oven was invented and soon marketed for commercial use. From 1948, the company started manufacturing guided missiles. During the Korean War in the early 1950s, Raytheon received arms contracts to develop both air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles called Sparrow and Hawk respectively. In the 1960s and 70s, the company continued to manufacture missiles, some of the famous ones being the Patriot antimissile missile and the air-to-air Phoenix missile.

In the post-war period, Raytheon not only emerged as a major defense contractor but also manufactured and marketed radio and television transmitters for the civilian market. It also made a series of acquisitions including the British electronics company A.C. Crossor in 1961, Amana Refrigeration, Inc. in 1965, Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1980 and Corporate Jets Inc. in 1993. With these acquisitions, Raytheon expanded its aircraft operations, with especial focus on the Hawker line of business jets. The company also sold special training aircrafts to the United States Navy and Air Force.

During the Gulf War, Raytheons’s Patriot missile got international exposure and this boosted its sale of missiles in the international market. Soon Raytheon had offices in France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, India, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. In the 1990s, Raytheon purchased a series of defense businesses, such as the Dallas-based E-Systems and the defense units of Chrysler Corporation, of Texas Instruments and of Hughes Electronics Corporation. In the 1990s, with its focus on defense enterprise, Raytheon moved away from many of its non-military businesses.

The four key ‘Strategic Business Areas’ where the company focuses now are: Homeland Security, Missile Defense, Precision Engagement and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance. Seeking to expand into robotics research, Raytheon purchased Sarcos in 2007. Apart from being the biggest producer of guided missiles, Raytheon also manufactures semiconductors for the electronics industry, radars and satellite sensors, hi-tech simulators etc. Because of the long history of collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, Raytheon shares a very close relationship with the U.S. government, getting huge grants from the National Science Foundation and persuading the government through heavy lobbying. Of late, the company is playing an important role in promoting math and science education in U.S. schools through initiatives like ‘MathMovesU’, ‘MathCounts’etc.