BAE Systems PLC

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A British multinational defense and aerospace manufacturer that develops weapons and combat vehicles for ground, air, and naval warfare, specializing in the design of avionic electronic warfare systems. BAE has worked in cooperation with Lockheed Martin and Rafael to produce and market the naval Protector drone used to maintain the siege of Gaza along the Mediterranean coast.

BAE Systems is a British multinational defense and aerospace manufacturer, ranked as the third largest defence contractor worldwide in 2017 with $21.5 billion in total revenue. BAE earns 91 percent of its revenue from the defense sector. It has multiple global facilities including in the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, and Australia. BAE develops weapons and combat vehicles for ground, air, and naval warfare, specializing in the design of avionic electronic warfare systems. The company also provides commercial aircraft equipment and cyber services.

BAE Systems Weapons Sales to Israel and Collaboration with the Israeli Military Industry

BAE owns a facility in Jerusalem through its subsidiary Rokar International, the sole supplier of flare- and chaff-dispensing systems to the Israeli Air Force. Rokar provides these systems for multiple combat aircraft and helicopters, including the F-15, F-16, and AH-64.

BAE Systems collaborated with Lockheed Martin to develop the F-35 jets ordered by Israel. The company provides the tail end of the F-35 jets, specifically the aft fuselage and empennage, and received a contract from Lockheed Martin in 2018 to manage the electronic warfare systems for the fighter jets. In 2017, BAE won a contract to sell transmitters for the F-35 to Israel through the US foreign military sales program.

BAE worked with Israeli state-owned military company Rafael to upgrade Rafael’s Typhoon stabilized weapons system (also known as Mk 38), and the companies teamed together to offer the gun mount to US and Canadian weapons markets in 2017. The Typhoon is mounted on the Israeli military’s unmanned naval Protector drone, which is used to maintain the siege of Gaza. In 2006, BAE worked with Lockheed Martin and Rafael to market the Protector drone itself to the United States Navy.

BAE Rokar developed the Silver Bullet, a precision guidance system for standard artillery, in close collaboration with the Israeli military in 2015. BAE equipped IMI Systems M401 155mm  cannon artillery with its Silver Bullet 2D fuse.

In 2014, BAE and Israeli military company IMI Systems (owned by Elbit Systems as of 2018) jointly offered to upgrade the M113 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) of the Israeli military, which were used in Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza. In 2012, BAE and Elbit collaborated to offer a 155mm howitzer artillery system to the Israeli military. Human rights organizations have repeatedly documented the use of other 155mm artillery to kill civilians in Gaza (here and here).

In 2002, BAE sold electronic missile launching kits for F-16 aircraft to Israel through the United States. Though British export guidelines specified that British arms components would not be used by the Israeli military in occupied Palestine, the British government admitted in 2009 that it could not track whether BAE electronics had been installed and used on Israeli F-16s in human rights violations. Israel previously broke its agreement with Britain in 2002 when it converted British Centurion trucks into armored personnel carriers for use in the Israeli military.

BAE Systems Weapons Used in Attacks on Palestinian Civilians

F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which contain components manufactured by BAE Systems, 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 Protector drone and Typhoon gun that BAE collaborated with Rafael to market have been used to maintain the illegal blockade on 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.

Human Rights Watch documented numerous instances of the Israeli military using Apache helicopters to launch airstrikes on civilian populations during Israel’s 2006 ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon. The attack severely damaged civilian infrastructure and killed 1,183 people, of whom approximately one third were children. 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 assault, over one 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.

In 2008-2009, Israel conducted an assault on Gaza (“Operation Cast Lead”) involving the use of F-16 aircraft and Apache helicopters that 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.

The Israeli Military used F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters in its 2014 assault of Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”) that killed 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians. Israeli forces conducted over 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza and damaged or destroyed 18,000 housing units, 73 medical facilities, and many ambulances, leaving over 100,000 people homeless. Defense for Children International found that of the 550 children killed during Operation Protective Edge, 225 were killed by missiles dropped from Israeli warplanes. 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.

The Protector drone that BAE has helped market in the United States is used to maintain the siege of Gaza along the Mediterranean coast, which has been ongoing since 2007. 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 and called for accountability.

Other Controversies

BAE has contracted with the government of Saudi Arabia to sell billions of dollars worth of arms to its military despite strong evidence that Saudi Arabia has repeatedly engaged in war crimes in Yemen. BAE manufactures and sells Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, including a sale in March 2018 for 48 Typhoon jets. According to Amnesty International, BAE personnel also remain in Saudi Arabia to support the company’s aircraft. The Saudi-led international coalition has performed numerous airstrikes on Yemen, 36 of which Amnesty International has described as violations of international law and perhaps war crimes. These attacks have killed 513 civilians and injured 379 more. In 2016, British parliament members issued a report demanding the suspension of British arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending an investigation to determine whether weapons from previous sales had been used in violation of international law.

A BBC investigative report in 2017 revealed that BAE sold advanced cyber surveillance systems known as Evident to multiple repressive governments in the Middle East since 2011. Countries to which Evident has been exported include Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, and Algeria. Evident allows governments to extensively monitor citizen communications, including overseeing internet traffic and tracking individuals’ locations. According to BBC’s report, increased cyber surveillance in recent years has had a direct negative impact on the actions of human rights activists in many of the countries that bought Evident. A pro-democratic former Saudi Air Force officer who fled the country stated, “I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said more than 90% of the most active campaigners in 2011 have now vanished.”

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
10 August 2018