The world's fourth-largest military company. It manufactures multiple weapon systems used by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, and was instrumental in developing ICE's deportation machine.
Northrop Grumman Corp, headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, designs, manufactures, and sells many weapon systems, including missiles and guided projectiles, electronic warfare systems, military aviation systems, ammunition, cybersecurity systems, and surveillance technologies. As of 2022, it is the world's fourth-largest military company, with $31.4 billion in annual revenue, 88% of which derives from its defense sector.
Northrop Grumman has long supplied the U.S. and international militaries with aircraft, weapon systems, and related logistics and maintenance services. In 2021, the U.S. government accounted for 88% of Northrop Grumman's annual sales. Between 2008 and 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) awarded Northrop Grumman contracts worth $136.7 billion. Additionally, the company contracts with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which awarded it contracts worth over $1 billion between 2008 and 2021.
War Crimes Against Palestinian Civilians
Northrop Grumman supplies the Israeli military with a wide variety of weapons, including various missile systems. The company's technologies are also integrated into Israel's main weapon systems, including its fighter jets, missile ships, and trainer aircraft. 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 11,100 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.
- 2012 ("Operation Pillar of Defense"): Israel killed 174 Palestinians, 101 of whom were civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Evidence of Israeli war crimes was published by the UN, 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.
F-16, F-35, and Other Combat Aircraft
Northrop Grumman "plays a critical role" in developing and manufacturing components for Lockheed Martin's F-35 warplane and has an agreement with Israel's largest military contractor, Elbit Systems, to provide components for the Israeli Air Force's F-35 aircraft. During its month-long assault on Gaza in 2021, the Israeli Air Force deployed 80 fighter jets, including F-35s, to carry out "waves of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip."
For Israel's main combat aircraft, Lockheed Martin's F-16, Northrop Grumman manufactures the ALQ-131 warfare system and the AN/APG-68(V)9 fire-control radar. In 2021, for example, the Israeli Air Force used F-16 warplanes to bomb Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood. In its 2008–2009 assault on Gaza, Israel used F-16s to fire missiles at Palestinian homes, factories, and water and sanitation plants, killing at least 22 people, including 12 children, and destroying critical infrastructure.
Additionally, in 2012, Northrop Grumman Italia provided its LISA-200 Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) to the Israeli military's fleet of M-346 advanced trainer aircraft. The AHRS was part of a larger contract for avionics upgrades provided by Northrop Grumman for the Israeli M-346 program.
Longbow Missiles for Apache Helicopters
Through a joint venture with Lockheed Martin, Nothrop Grumman manufactures the AN/APG-78 Longbow fire-control radar system. The system is designed specifically for Apache attack helicopters for use with AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire laser-guided missiles.
Apache helicopters equipped with Longbow radar systems and Hellfire missiles have been used extensively in Israel's major assaults on Gaza. During Israel's 50-day attack on Gaza in 2014, for example, Apache-fired Hellfire missiles killed at least 51 people, including 24 children, and injured at least 66 others, including 36 children, in incidents that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights identified as "a direct attack against civilian objects or civilians, a war crime under international criminal law."
Since at least 1998, Northrop Grumman has been contracted to modernize Israel's AH-164A Apache helicopters to the AH-64D Apache Longbow configuration. As documented by Human Rights Watch, these upgrades were part of a larger request by the Israeli military for Apache helicopter equipment and missiles, including Longbow Hellfire missiles.
Sa'ar Missile Ships and Other Naval Weapons
Since the early 1980s, Northrop Grumman has supplied the Israeli Navy with Sa'ar 5 Class corvettes, a heavily armed missile ship. The Israeli Navy routinely uses these ships to enforce Israel's illegal naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. A Sa'ar 5 missile ship was also used by the Israeli Navy during its 2010 assault on the Mavi Marmara—or Free Gaza Flotilla—an unarmed Turkish aid ship that was attempting to deliver supplies to Gaza. In what the International Criminal Court has labeled as war crimes, Israeli commandos raided the ship and killed nine activists.
Additionally, Northrop Grumman subsidiary Orbital Sciences was contracted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) in 2018 to provide Israel with GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) base vehicles, used to simulate anti-ship cruise missile threats.
Militarization of the US–Mexico Border
Northrop Grumman is one of the largest contractors for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Between 2004 and 2020, the company held contracts worth over $625 million with CBP and ICE for ammunition, cybersecurity software, "transportation and detainee location tracking system[s]," the biometric HART system (see below), and more.
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 Lockheed Martin P-3 aircraft. CBP uses its P-3 fleet to "intercept and track both aircraft and vessels for hours at a time while maintaining a covert standoff." The P-3s patrol what CBP calls the "extended border," 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. Known as VADER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar), this system was originally developed in 2006 for the U.S. Army to use in Afghanistan. In 2009, CBP tested VADER on the U.S.–Mexico border in Arizona and adopted it as a permanent tool in its arsenal in 2012. According to CBP, within 3.5 months of its first year in operation, VADER helped detain 1,874 people crossing through the Sonoran Desert. Between 2012 and 2017, VADER detected 51,600 people crossing the U.S.–Mexico border. As of 202, VADER continues to provide CBP with "accurate, real time . . . moving target data and radar imagery."
CBP also tested Northrop Grumman's aerial drones for use in border patrol operations. In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (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 it does not consist of drones manufactured by Northrop Grumman.
CBP's aircraft are routinely loaned to local police departments 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 supporting CBP's air operations, Northrop Grumman has also enhanced CBP's border inspection capabilities. In 2014, CBP awarded the company a five-year $337 million 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.'
Prior to these activities, Northrop Grumman was one of the first companies contracted for DHS's 2006 Smart Border Initiative Net (SBInet), a program aimed at creating a "virtual fence" along the U.S.–Mexico border in Arizona. The contract involved installing "surveillance, communications, video analytics, network and IT components, and data archival capabilities" at 40 border crossings, as well as training CBP personnel to "identify potential threats at and to ports of entry and collect information through surveillance technologies." The SBInet project, led by Boeing, was abandoned five years later.
Past Mass Biometric Surveillance (HART System)
Between 2018 and 2021, Northrop Grumman was the main contractor for DHS's principal biometric database, known as the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System (HART). Other companies subcontracted for the system included NEC Corporation and Gemalto. HART is hosted on Amazon Web Services' Government Cloud. Since 2021, the HART contract is handled by the Peraton Corporation, a military IT company owned by private equity firm Veritas Capital, which acquired Northrop Grumman's federal IT business.
HART was developed to replace 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 police agencies 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 has already been 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 on over 500 million individuals and support at least 720,000 data collections daily. The types of biometric data HART collects and retains—for up to 75 years—include facial images, DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and voiceprints. 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 CBP and ICE, as well as state and local police agencies.
CBP and ICE 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 via 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 high levels of inaccuracy, and a 2005 study found that "42 percent of [FBI] immigration hits in response to police queries were 'false positives.'"
Northrop Grumman has a political action committee (PAC) that spent $4.9 million in campaign contributions between 1991 and 2002. Additionally, the company's employee PAC contributed over $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, the company spent over $364 million in lobbying expenses on a number of issues, including DHS and cybersecurity, its Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) system, foreign military sales defense trade, and 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 as senior analysts for the DOD. 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.”