Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

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The UK's second largest weapons manufacturer. Its German subsidiary MTU makes the engines for Israel's main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Rolls-Royce Holdings plc* is the world's 25th largest weapons manufacturer, and the U.K.'s second, after BAE Systems, as of 2022. Its German subsidiary Rolls-Royce Power Systems AG (formerly known as Tognum AG) owns the engine manufacturer MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH.

MTU developed the MT883 engine, which powers Israel's main battle tanks, the Merkava 4 and the newer Merkava 5 (Barak), as well as the Merkava-based Namer Armored Personnel Carrier. It is the only major component of the Merkava tank that is made outside of Israel. The Israeli Eitan Armored Fighting Vehicle uses MTU 6V890 engines.

Israel used this tank extensively in its 2006 invasion of Lebanon and its 2012, 2014, 2021, and 2023-2024 assaults on Gaza. Artillery and tank shelling killed at least 81 children during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, according to Defense for Children International. Israeli soldiers also reported using tanks to purposefully destroy Palestinian agricultural lands. Israel used its Merkava battle tanks extensively in its 2023 ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, including in its attacks on the Shifa Hospital and the Indonesian Hospital.

In addition, MTU makes most of the engines for the Israeli Navy, powering some 80% of its boats according to one 2015 estimate. Specifically, the Israeli-made Super Dvora and Shaldag patrol boats use MTU engines. These boats form the bulk of the Israeli Navy's patrol units, which are in charge, among carrying out other missions, of enforcing the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

While MTU is based in Germany, the engines it sells to Israel are made in the U.S., which enables Israel to buy them using the Foreign Military Sales Program. At least some of the MT883 Merkava tank engines are made in a Muskegon, Michigan factory, which used to be owned by General Dynamics, then by L-3/L3Harris, and since 2021 by German company Renk.

In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) awarded MTU a $7.9 million contract to supply engines to the Israeli Navy. A year later, the State Department approved the sale of 240 engines for the Namer Armored Personnel Carrier, worth $238 million. In both cases, the engines were made by Rolls Royce America in its factory in Novi, Michigan.

In one known case, U.S. taxpayers' money was used to buy MTU engines, made in Europe, for Israel. In 2015, the DoD awarded MTU a $6.8 million contract for engines for the Israeli Navy's Super Dvora boats. The engines were produced in Germany and Sweden.

In 2021, Rolls-Royce issued a statement claiming that Super Dvora boats that Israel had sold to Myanmar did not have MTU engines installed in them. The company "is committed to the German government's 'Political Principles' and supports a responsible arms export policy," the statement said.

*This company is no longer associated with Rolls-Royce cars, which are made by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, a subsidiary of BMW since 1998.

Unless specified otherwise, the information in this page is valid as of
2 January 2024