A US-based military contractor known for its Bell, Beechcraft, Cessna, and Hawker aircraft brands, some of which are used to monitor the US-Mexico border and by the Israeli Air Force.
Textron Inc, headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, manufactures aircraft, military, and industrial products and is mostly known for its aircraft brands Beechcraft, Bell Helicopters, Cessna, and Hawker. It has 33,000 employees in 25 countries and operates 54 factories in the U.S. and 49 factories in other countries.
The company's 2020 revenue was $11.6 billion, 30% of which was from sales to the U.S. government, including foreign military sales. The company's main U.S. government client is the Department of Defense, which accounts for the vast majority of Textron's $27 billion in contracts between 2008 and 2021.
US-Mexico Border Monitoring
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses Textron's Cessna and Hawker aircraft as part of its Air and Marine Operations (AMO) fleet, which has 240 aircraft total. In 2019 alone, CBP's air and marine enforcement resulted in 1,575 arrests and 52,036 apprehensions of immigrants.
The most advanced Textron-made aircraft that CBP uses is the Beechcraft King Air 360ER, which the agency calls Multi-Role Enforcement Super King Air (MEA). These aircraft are equipped with "state-of-the-art sensor equipment for detection, tracking and surveillance operations," including day and night cameras that can follow vehicles and people from afar without being noticed. CBP uses them to "conduct aerial patrol and surveillance over land and water," as well as for "prisoner transport."
CBP first ordered the Multi-Role Enforcement Air in 2009, and will have 29 such aircraft by 2022. They are meant to eventually replace CBP's fleet of Beechcraft King Air 200 and C-12C aircraft, also made by Textron. These contracts are not held by Textron directly, but by private company Sierra Nevada Corporation, which customizes these Textron-made aircraft for CBP use.
In addition, CBP's fleet includes Textron-made Cessna C206H and T206H aircraft, which it uses for "surveillance, tracking and reconnaissance" in "large metropolitan and remote rural areas." The agency takes advantage of their appearance, which "blends effectively with the civil aviation fleet."
In addition to their intended use of patrolling U.S. borders, CBP has used its aircraft fleet to assist local law enforcement agencies, including in monitoring civilian protests. Out of 92,800 hours of flight time logged by CBP's Air and Marine Operations during 2020, 8,000 hours were spent responding to requests for assistance from law enforcement agencies around the country.
In 2020, the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes, and drones over at least 15 U.S. cities during protests over the murder of George Floyd. These aircraft logged at least 270 Horus of surveillance. Specifically, a Textron-made CBP Cessna aircraft conducted almost 58 hours of surveillance of protestors in Buffalo, New York.
Targeting Palestinian Civilians
The Israeli Air Force 100 Squadron uses Textron aircraft, including the Beechcraft King Air, Queen Air, RC12-D Guardrail, and Bonanza A-36, mostly for reconnaissance, freight, and training purposes. At least some of these aircraft were given to Israel through the U.S. government foreign military sales program.
These aircraft reconnaissance missions include participating in so-called "roof-knock" bombings. This is a warning method, in which Israeli aircraft strike a residential building with relatively small missiles before blowing up the building with larger bombs. During Israel's 2014 large assault on Gaza, the Israeli Air Force 100 Squadron, which operates Beechcraft aircraft, was in charge of spotting people leaving buildings after the "roof-knock" strike. Both Amnesty International and a U.N. Human Rights Council independent commission of inquiry concluded that this method cannot be considered an "effective warning," as is required by International humanitarian law.
Until 2013, the Israeli Air Force also used Textron's Bell AH-1 Cobra as one of its main attack helicopters. Israel used these helicopters in all its wars and major operations between the 1980s and 2013. During Israel's 2008-2009 major assault on the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch documented Cobra helicopters firing numerous TOW missiles at civilian targets. Israel phased out the use of Cobra helicopters in favor of Boeing's Apache AH-64D helicopters and an increasing reliance on a growing fleet of drones.