BAE Systems PLC

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The world's seventh-largest military contractor, which manufactures multiple weapon systems routinely used in war crimes against Palestinians.

BAE Systems, headquartered in London, designs, manufactures, and sells military weapons and equipment, including electronic warfare systems, components for fighter jets, combat vehicles, gun systems, explosives, and drones. As of 2022, it is the world's seventh-largest military contractor, and the largest in Europe, with $25.7 billion in annual revenue, 96% of which derives from its defense sector.

War Crimes Against Palestinian Civilians

BAE Systems supplies the Israeli military with a wide variety of weapons, including components for combat aircraft, munitions, missile launching kits, and armored vehicles. BAE technologies are also integrated into Israel's main weapon systems, including fighter jets, drones, and warships. These weapons are often gifted to Israel through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Financing program.

For years, these weapons have repeatedly been used against Palestinian civilians, resulting in numerous casualties as well as mass destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and water and electric systems. These attacks include war crimes that Israel has committed during several major military offensives against the Gaza Strip, which has been illegally blockaded since 2007:

  • 2022 ("Operation Breaking Dawn"): Within three days of an unprovoked offensive, Israel killed at least 33 Palestinians, including 17 civilians. Evidence of war crimes was recorded by Amnesty International.
  • 2021 ("Operation Guardian of the Walls"): During this assault, Israel killed at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children and 41 women. At least half of the fatalities were civilians, and more than 2,200 additional Palestinians were injured. Evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity was published by Palestinian human rights organizations Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights; Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch. The International Criminal Court announced that it will examine these cases.
  • 2014 ("Operation Protective Edge"): During this 50-day assault, Israel killed at least 2,131 Palestinians, at least 1,473 of whom were civilians, including 501 children and 257 women. At least 11,000 Palestinians were wounded, including 3,374 children. Evidence of war crimes was published by Palestinian human rights organizations Al-Haq and Al Mezan; Israeli organization B'Tselem; Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch.
  • 2008–2009 ("Operation Cast Lead"): During this 22-day assault, Israel killed at least 1,385 Palestinians, including at least 308 children, and wounded at least 5,000 more. The majority of casualties were civilians. Evidence of war crimes was published by the UN's Fact-Finding Mission, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.

Warplanes: F-15, F-16, F-35

BAE Systems provides weapon systems and components to the Israeli Air Force's fleet of F-15, F-16, and F-35 fighter jets. For example, it collaborates with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to develop the tail of the F-35 fighter jet, a combat aircraft that has been supplied to the Israeli Air Force since 2016.

In 2018, BAE was contracted to manufacture $20.4 million worth of transmitters for Israel's F-35s through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Sales program. The Israeli Air Force has since used the F-35 to launch airstrikes in and around Gaza. For example, during its 2021 assault, the Israeli Air Force deployed 80 fighter jets, including the F-35I, to carry out "waves of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip."

Additionally, BAE has provided the Israeli military with electronic missile launching kits and gunsight technology for F-16 aircraft. Israel's use of these weapons against civilians in Gaza from 2008 to 2009 came under scrutiny in the UK parliament, as it violated the UK's arms export guidelines. As a result, the British government reviewed its arms exports to Israel and eventually refused to export certain weapon components in 2011 and 2012 due to various concerns, over, for example, Israel's "respect for human rights and international humanitarian law."

Until 2021, BAE also developed and manufactured components for Israeli combat aircraft through its subsidiary Rokar International. Based in Jerusalem, Rokar is the Israeli Air Force's sole supplier of anti-missile defense systems installed on F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, as well as Apache attack helicopters. In 2021, Rokar was acquired by Elbit Systems.

Gun Systems and Munitions

BAE partnered with Israeli state-owned weapon manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems to upgrade Rafael's MK-38 Typhoon gun system, a remotely controlled naval weapon system installed on the Israeli military's unmanned Protector drone. The drone has been used to enforce Israel's illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. Gazan fishermen, who are restricted by Israel to severely limited fishing areas, have reported being fired at by the Israeli Navy on an almost-daily basis.

In 2015, in close collaboration with the Israeli military, BAE developed the Rokar Silver Bullet, a precision guidance kit used to transform large-caliber projectiles, fired, for example, by tanks and warships, into highly accurate munitions. BAE has supplied Israeli weapon manufacturer IMI Systems (owned by Elbit Systems since 2018) with its Silver Bullet for integration into M401 155mm cannon artillery.

Israel has routinely fired 155mm heavy artillery into residential areas of Gaza City in what Human Rights Watch has deemed "indiscriminate attacks in violation of the laws of war." For example, during Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza, the Israeli military fired 155mm artillery shells at a UN-run school, which was sheltering over 3,000 displaced people, in the Palestinian city of Jabaliya. The attack killed and injured more than 100 civilians, including children.

Other Controversies

Between 2007 and 2012, BAE was the parent company of Armor Holdings and Safariland, one of the world's largest manufacturers of less-lethal weapons—specifically, chemical weapons for law enforcement.

Economic Activism Highlights

Defense contractor BAE has been targeted across Europe and North America by university students, banks, and pension funds for its role in human rights violations.

  • On May 23, 2018, student groups at the University of Cambridge called for a boycott of Caterpillar and BAE Systems. The call was initiated by Cambridge University Palestine Society and Cambridge University Kurdish Society and signed by over 40 student groups and over 70 members of faculty and staff.
  • In 2013, in Canada, York University’s undergraduate Federation of Students voted to divest the school’s holdings from BAE, citing the its sale of “weapons and military equipment to Israel.”
  • Graduate students at Canada’s Carleton University voted in a 2012 referendum to divest the university’s pension from BAE, citing its “complicit[y] in the occupation of Palestine.”
  • Graduate students at Canada’s York University voted in 2012 to divest from BAE, citing its role in “Israeli human rights violations, war crimes and oppression.”
  • The University of Michigan at Dearborn’s student government passed a divestment resolution in 2010, citing BAE’s “...[sale of] weapons, goods, and services to Israel.”
  • Students at Cardiff University in Wales, citing BAE’s “supplying [of] military equipment to Israel,” participated in a three-day sit-in in 2009 until university officials confirmed they had sold the school’s shares in BAE.
  • For more information see the Corporate Research Project's Rap Sheet.
Unless specified otherwise, the information in this page is valid as of
17 November 2022