One of the world's largest military companies. Develops missile systems used by the Israeli Air Force against Palestinian civilians; provides drones and radars used to monitor the US-Mexico border; and develops databases and systems for the US Department of Homeland Security to profile, surveil, and monitor immigrant communities.
Northrop Grumman is a U.S.-based military technology company that develops and manufactures manned aircraft, missile systems, high-energy laser systems, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, electronic warfare systems, and training and logistics support. In 2019, it was the third-largest arms-producing and military services company in the world and, in 2020, it was the fifth-largest government contractor in the U.S. Northrop Grumman made $36.7 billion in total sales in 2020, of which 84% was derived from U.S. government contracts and 13% from non-U.S. customers, including foreign military sales.
From 1997 to July 2021, the U.S. federal government, primarily the Department of Defense, awarded Northrop Grumman contracts worth at least $133.8 billion in total. During the same period, the company was awarded contracts worth $977 million by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border
Northrop Grumman is a major contractor for DHS agencies Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). A 2019 report by the Transnational Institute and No Más Muertes highlighted Northrop Grumman as one of the top fourteen border security companies in the U.S.
Northrop Grumman services CBP's aerial surveillance infrastructure. In 2020, CBP awarded the company a 10-year contract worth a potential $896.1 million to provide maintenance for its P-3 aircraft fleet, made by Lockheed Martin. CBP uses P-3 aircraft to "intercept and track both aircrafts and vessels for hours at a time while maintaining a covert standoff." They patrol what CBP calls the "extended border," which covers "a 42 million-square-mile area that includes more than 41 nations, the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and seaboard approaches to the United States."
CBP also uses Northrop Grumman's aerial drone-mounted military-grade radar system to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border. Called VADER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar), this system was originally developed in 2006 for the U.S. Army to use in Afghanistan. CBP tested VADER on the Arizona border in 2009 and adopted it as a permanent tool in its arsenal in 2012. According to CBP, within 3.5 months during its first year of use, VADER helped detain 1,874 people crossing through the Sonora Desert, and between 2012 and 2017, VADER detected over 51,600 people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. As of 2020, VADER continued to provide "accurate, real time...moving target data and radar imagery."
Northrop Grumman aerial drones were also used by CBP when it was testing the feasibility of their usage for border patrol. In 2004, DHS used two Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. These drones were originally provided to the U.S. Army by Northrop Grumman and Israel Aerospace Industries. Since then, CBP has developed a drone fleet for surveilling the border, although not ones manufactured by Northrop Grumman.
Beyond their use by CBP, the agency also lends its aircraft to local law enforcement agencies in "emergency situations...in which aerial surveillance is necessary or the terrain would be too difficult for law enforcement personnel to navigate." The Electronic Frontier Foundation has raised concerns that CBP drones are deployed by state and local agencies and used to surveil people unrelated to border crossings, sometimes without probable cause.
In addition to air surveillance systems, Northrop Grumman enhanced CBP's border inspection capabilities. In 2014, CBP awarded the company a $337 million 5-year contract to modernize its TECS database, which "facilitates information sharing among federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies, as well as with international governments and commercial organizations." CBP uses TECS as a data repository to "support law enforcement 'lookouts,' border screening, and reporting for CBP's primary and secondary inspection processes."
Before these current activities, Northrop Grumman was one of the first companies contracted for the Secure Border Initiative (SBInet) "virtual wall" program in 2006. The main SBInet contractor was Boeing, and the project was abandoned five years later. Northrop Grumman was contracted to develop border security surveillance for over 40 ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border. The contract involved installing "surveillance, communications, video analytics, network and IT components, and data archival capabilities" at ports of entry, as well as training personnel to "identify potential threats at and to ports of entry and collect information through surveillance technologies."
Past Mass Biometric Surveillance (HART System)
Between 2018 and 2021, Northrop Grumman was the main contractor for DHS's main new biometric database, known as the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART). In February 2021, Peraton Corporation, a military IT company owned by private equity firm Veritas Capital, acquired Northrop Grumman's federal IT and mission support services business for $3.8 billion. As a result, all of the division's contracts with the U.S. Government, including HART, were taken over by Peraton.
In February 2018, Northrop Grumman received the initial $95 million contract from DHS to develop HART's first two stages. Other companies that were subcontracted for the system include NEC Corporation and Gemalto. HART is hosted on Amazon Web Services' Government Cloud.
HART replaces DHS's previous biometric database, the Automated Biometric Identity System (IDENT), managed by General Dynamics. IDENT was created in the 1990s as the key technology behind the Secure Communities program, enabling automated fingerprint sharing between local law enforcement and ICE. Secure Communities was launched in 2008 and triggered a sharp increase in deportations during the early years of the Obama administration. By the time of the program's suspension in November 2014, it was already responsible for an estimated 450,000 deportations.
Expanding on IDENT's database of 230 million unique individuals, HART will become one of the largest biometric databases in the world, with the ability to store information of more than 500 million individuals and support at least 720,000 data collections daily. The types of biometric data HART collects and retains includes facial images, DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and voiceprints for up to 75 years. Additionally, DHS plans to have HART collect information about people's "relationship patterns" in order to identify "political affiliation, religious activity, and familial and friendly relationships." This information is accessible to ICE and CBP, as well as to state and local law enforcement.
ICE and CBP use mobile biometric devices to "identify faces and capture face data in the field," allowing agencies to track people in public places without their knowledge or consent. This technology, in tandem with tracking political affiliation and religious activity on HART, might deter people from exercising their rights to political expression and assembly, according to The Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Another concern is that HART will disproportionately profile, surveil, and monitor people of color. FBI and MIT research has shown that current facial recognition systems misidentify people of color and women at higher rates than white people and men, and that misidentification increases for people with darker skin tones, leading critics like the ACLU to raise concerns that HART will encourage racial profiling. DHS's tests of its own facial recognition system found high levels of inaccuracy, and a 2005 study found "42 percent of [FBI] immigration hits in response to police queries were 'false positives.'"
Selling Weapons to Israel
Northrop Grumman provides the Israeli military with the Longbow system for Apache AH64D helicopters. The Longbow system, a joint venture with Lockheed Martin, consists of the Longbow Hellfire missile (AGM-114L) and a fire-control radar (AN/APG-78). The company also produces key parts for the F-35, a fighter jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin that Israel acquired through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales program. Northrop Grumman produces approximately 35% of the Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft, including its center fuselage, radar, avionics, electro-optics, navigation, communications and identification subsystems, and mission systems and mission-planning software. The company also manages pilot and maintainer training systems software as well as the team’s use, support, and maintenance of low-observable technologies. Northrop Grumman also makes the AN/APG-68(V)9 Multimode Fire Control Radar for the F-16.
Northrop Grumman Italia provided the Israeli Air Force with its LISA-200 Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) for a fleet of M-346 advanced trainer aircrafts. The company manufactured and provided Israel with its Sa’ar 5 Eilat Class corvettes, which are missile ships used to enforce the siege of Gaza.
Cooperation with the Israeli Military Industry
Northrop Grumman has partnered with various Israeli military corporations and government industries. In 2002, the company signed a 23-year, $487 million deal to provide the U.S., Israel, and 15 other countries with F-16 fire-control radar engineering services, replacement parts, and technical support. In 2003, Northrop Grumman and Israel Aerospace Industries’ TAMAM Division signed an agreement to cooperate in the development of electro-optical payloads for “intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance for specified business opportunities.” In 2007, Northrop Grumman announced that it had teamed up with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to build surveillance satellites for the U.S. government. Based on IAI’s TECSAR radar imaging satellite, the spacecraft “Trinidad” captures high resolution images at 400 to 800 kilometers of altitude through its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) sensor.
In 2007, Stark Aerospace, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries International, opened a facility in Mississippi. Stark Aerospace manufactures the Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for Northrop Grumman. The United States military began using Hunter drones in the 1990s, when IAI and Northrop Grumman won an initial production contract to develop seven Hunter systems. Some Hunter UAVs feature Viper Strike laser guided munitions produced by Northrop Grumman.
In 2008, the company initiated a formal partnership with the government-owned Israeli Aerospace Industry (IAI) to outfit Israeli combat aircraft with radar and missile-firing capabilities.
Northrop Grumman has worked in conjunction with the Israeli military industry to develop a surveillance satellite spacecraft called “Trinidad,” the Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and the LITENING targeting pod--a weapons laser navigation system developed jointly with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems that Israel uses primarily on F-16 aircrafts.
IMI Systems (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems formerly operated by the Israeli state) produces the MPR 500, an advanced warhead compatible with Boeing’s JDAM guiding system. IMI and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (previously Orbital ATK) partnered in 2018 to introduce the MPR 500 to the U.S.
Routine Use of Northrop Grumman Weapons in Attacks on Civilians
F-16 jets, Apache helicopters, and other weapons systems containing parts manufactured by Northrop Grumman have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’tselem, and United Nations commissions, has ruled these attacks to be human rights violations, collective punishment, and at times war crimes.
Between July 12th and August 14th 2006, Israel conducted a ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon that severely damaged civilian infrastructure and killed 1,183 people, of whom approximately one third were children. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Israeli forces fired on civilians and civilian vehicles from Apache helicopters on numerous occasions. Israeli forces deliberately targeted apartment buildings, villages, plants, bridges, seaports, and other key features of Lebanon’s infrastructure. As a result of Israel’s aerial bombardment, over 1 million people were internally or externally displaced. According to a report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Israel violated international humanitarian law by failing to take care to prevent civilian casualties during its airstrikes on Lebanese infrastructure.
From December 27th, 2008 to January 18th, 2009, Israel conducted an attack on Gaza it called “Operation Cast Lead” during which Israeli forces used various weapons systems manufactured by Northrop Grumman. According to the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission to the Gaza Conflict, Israel carried out attacks with F-16 aircraft on civilian homes and refugee camps. Missiles fired from Apache helicopters targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure on numerous occasions over the course of the assault. A report by Amnesty International found that Israeli forces used Hellfire missiles produced by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in their repeated attacks upon clearly marked ambulances and paramedics in uniform. Of the 1,394 Palestinians killed in the “Cast Lead” attacks, 345 were minors. The assault injured over 5,300 people and killed 1,383 Palestinians, of whom 333 were children. Israeli forces destroyed the homes of over 3,400 Palestinian families and left thousands of civilians homeless and physically impaired. According to a report published by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilian objects and failed to take every possible precaution to minimize civilian casualties, thereby violating customary international law.
Sa’ar 5 missile ships were used by the Israeli Navy during the 2006 Lebanon war and Operation Cast Lead and are used to enforce the illegal naval siege of the Gaza strip. Israel limits Gaza fishermen to an area no wider than 3 to 6 miles off the coast, severely limiting their access to fishing. The restriction is in contravention of the Oslo Agreements which state that Gaza fishermen should have a clearance of 20 nautical miles off the coast. Even when within the 3 and 6 mile boundaries, Gaza fishermen risk being attacked by Israeli naval vessels, which have killed and injured fishermen and damaged or confiscated their boats. Multiple leading human rights organizations (here, here, and here) consider the siege of the Gaza Strip to be collective punishment in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international law. In 2016, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon condemned the blockade of Gaza as “collective punishment” and called for accountability. A Sa’ar ship also participated in the Israeli attack on the unarmed Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010, resulting in the killing of 10 humanitarian activists. In November 2017, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda reaffirmed that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed by some members of the Israel Defence Forces” during the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla in 2010. The Israeli Navy also used Sa’ar ships to enforce a naval blockade on Lebanon during the 2006 Lebanon war.
In 2014, Israel conducted an attack on Gaza called “Operation Protective Edge” that killed 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians and 551 were children. Israeli forces used numerous weapons systems manufactured by Northrop Grumman throughout the assault on Gaza. According to a report by Amnesty International, Israel used F-16 aircraft and Apache helicopters during the 2014 assault, including in an attack on Rafah on August 1 and in an attack on Al Shati Refugee camp. Defense for Children International documented at least 13 children killed by missiles fired directly from Apache helicopters in its report on Protective Edge. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reported that approximately 47% of civilians killed during “Operation Protective Edge” were killed by warplanes including the F-16. Israeli forces conducted over 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza and damaged or destroyed 18,000 housing units, 73 medical facilities, and many ambulances. As a result of the attack, over 1,500 Palestinian children were orphaned and 11,231 people were injured, of whom 3,436 were children. According to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Israeli forces may have violated international human rights law and committed war crimes on numerous occasions because of their apparent disregard for the preservation of civilian life.
F-16 aircraft were repeatedly used in 2018 to conduct airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in civilian deaths. In February, Israeli missiles launched from F-16 warplanes killed two 17-year-old Palestinian teenagers during six extensive airstrikes, the largest assault since Operation Protective Edge. The attacks wounded two more Palestinians and damaged civilian homes. In July, Israeli forces used F-16 aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial drones to launch about 85 missiles at the Gaza Strip, killing two children and injuring 28 people. The attack damaged residential homes and partially damaged or destroyed numerous ambulances and trucks transporting medical supplies.
Northrop Grumman has a political action committee (PAC), which spent $4.9 million in campaign contributions between 1991 and 2002. Additionally, the company's employee PAC contributed more than $31 million from 1977 to 2021. Both PACs have donated to the Republican and Democratic parties through direct contributions and other PACs.
From 1999 to 2021, Northrop spent more than $364 million in lobbying expenses on a number of issues, including DHS and cybersecurity, its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) system, foreign military trade and defense trade, and even tax reform. Some of the company's high-ranking executives have close ties to the U.S. government and military, having occupied key positions in the U.S. Air Force, as military advisors to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and senior analysts for the Department of Defense. The company's board members also have ties to the U.S. military, including a former Navy admiral.
In February 2021, the University of California Irvine student government passed a resolution calling on the University of California to divest from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid. The companies named on the resolution included Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Caterpillar, Ford, Hyundai, Cemex, Raytheon, 3M, Northrop Grumman, Perrigo Company, Atlas Copco, and Blackrock.
- In September 2020, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's student government passed a resolution divesting from companies partaking in human rights violations against the Palestinian people, including Northrop Grumman. This resolution was first brought to the student government in February. The student senate resolution, originally titled “Violations of Human Rights in University Investments”, passed with a large margin on February 13, but was vetoed a few days later by the Student Government President after backlash from “pro-Israel” groups.
- In December 2019, the Brown University Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices passed a recommendation that the University divest from companies facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine including Northrop Grumman Corp.
- On April 26, 2017, University of Wisconsin-Madison students passed a resolution to call for the university's divestment from private prisons and corporations that build border walls, naming Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Suntrust, US Bank Corp., and Wells Fargo.
- On April 9, 2017, Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed a resolution urging the university to divest from "corporations that profit off the occupation of Palestine and the continued spread of settlements declared illegal under international law," including Elbit Systems, G4S, Northrop Grumman, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
- On April 12, 2016, the College Council of the University of Chicago passed a resolution to Divest University funds from apartheid, urging the university “ to withdraw, within the bounds of their fiduciary duty, investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine, including, Northrop Grumman."
- On January 19, 2016, a landslide vote by the University of South Florida student senate passed a joint resolution to divest from corporations who profit from "illegal and brutal occupation" in Palestine, including Northrop Group. The resolution was later vetoed by the student government president.
- In May 2015 the Olgethorpe University Student Senate passed a resolution to divest from Northrop Grumman “based on evidence of their active role in human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
- Students at UC Los Angeles passed a resolution to divest from Northrop Grumman in November 2014, stating Northrop Grumman “provide[s] weapons used in attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”
- Wesleyan University’s student senate in 2014 voted to divest the student endowment from Northrop, stating it is “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- In 2013, Canada's York University’s Federation of Students, voted to divest the school’s holdings from Northrop, citing the company’s sale of “weapons and military equipment to Israel.”
- A UC San Diego divestment resolution passed in 2013 stating that Northrop-Grumman “produces the Longbow mast-mounted 360° radar for the Apache AH-64 attack helicopter...used in attacks on the Palestinian population.”
- Students at Canada’s York University Graduate Student Association voted in 2012 to divest from Northrop, citing its role in “Israeli human rights violations, war crimes and oppression.”
- Graduate students at Canada’s Carleton University voted in a 2012 referendum to divest the university’s pension from Northrop-Grumman, citing its involvement in “illegal military occupations and other violations of international law.”
- The University of Michigan Dearborn's student government passed a divestment resolution in 2010 over the company's “...[sale of] weapons, goods, and services to Israel.
- In 2005 and 2006, the University of Michigan at Dearborn's student government passed resolutions urging divestment from Northrop-Grumman, citing the company’s “support and benefit from the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation.”