In September this year, the world’s largest arms fair, Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi), was held in London’s docklands. Hundreds of anti-militarist activists took to the streets in an attempt to disrupt the fair. In the months preceding the arms fair, Corporate Watch and Disarm DSEi produced a map showing the locations of all 924 exhibitors at the fair. The map is intended to show that the arms trade is present in every community in the UK.
The Mule, Manchester’s grassroots direct action newspaper, asked Corporate Watch to profile some of the DSEi exhibitors based in the northwest of England. 98 branches of companies exhibiting at DSEi are based in the northwest. Here are brief profiles of just a few.
BAE Systems
There are seven BAE Systems locations in the north-west. BAE is currently the second largest arms company in the world and the largest in the UK. The company boasts £18.5 billion a year in sales, with over 95% of these sales attributed to military goods.
British Aerospace (BAE) was first formed as a nationalised corporation in April 1977 by a merger between the British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics and Scottish Aviation. However, state control of the arms trade did not survive long under the Thatcher government, which sold 51.57% of its shares in BAE in 1981. In 1985, the government sold its remaining shares, keeping only a special £1 share in order to ensure that the company continued under British control. Foreign ownership of BAE Systems is in fact limited by law to 29.5%. In 2008, the company made headlines after it was accused by the serious fraud office of “concealing the truth” about its £43 billion worth of arms deals to Saudi Arabia.
BAE’s products include assault rifles, artillery guns, components for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs or drones), torpedoes, tanks, warships, nuclear submarines, nuclear weapons, radar systems, Head-Up display units (HDUs) for fighter aircraft and shackles used in Guantanomo Bay.
BAE’s weapons are used by the UK, Saudi Arabia, Australia, South Africa, Sweden and Israel. Its recent focus has been on increasing sales to the US, specifically targeting equipment for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supplying Eurofighters to the Saudi Arabian regime. Other export deals include sub-systems for Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft and sales to both India and Pakistan.
BAE is listed as one of Brighton-based EDO MBM/ITT’s internal contacts.
European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS)
EADS, is the seventh largest global arms manufacturer with total sales of $52 billion (of which 25% are military). EADS is registered in Holland and its major shareholders include the French state and the German DaimlerChrysler group.
EADS military products include combat aircraft, helicopters, ships, unmanned drones and naval systems. It is the second largest manufacturer of guided missiles after Raytheon. EADS produces all of France’s nuclear ballistic missiles.
EADS has exported military equipment to Brazil, Indonesia, Oman, Qatar, Turkey, South Korea, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, South Africa, Thailand; Poland and the United Arab Emirates. The company is currently manufacturing the Eagle 1 drone together with Israeli Aircraft Industries.
EADS is also listed as one of Brighton-based EDO MBM/ITT’s internal contacts.
It has premises in Lostock (Lancashire), Poynton (Cheshire) and Broughton (Cheshire).
SELEX Communications
SELEX Communications is a somewhat smaller company based in Liverpool. SELEX is part of the Italian Finmeccanica corporation, the ninth largest arms manufacturer in the world.
Finmeccanica’s annual sales in 2006 totalled $16.5 billion of which 56% were military. Their military products include avionic systems, torpedoes, combat aircraft, drones, missile systems, helicopters, armoured vehicles and naval artillery. SELEX in Liverpool develops communication systems for air and naval forces as well as for the police. The company supplies communication systems to the British and Italian navies and equipped the police and army at the G8 conference 2009 in L’Aquila, Italy.
GKN is number 40 on the list of the world’s largest arms manufacturers and has premises in Burnley. In 2006, the company’s annual sales were $3.8 billion of which 11% were military.
GKN manufactures components for the Eurofighter, F-18, F-35 and F-15, amongst others. The F-15 was widely used during the Israeli massacres in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009.
GKN lists clients in the UK, France, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Israel, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Romania and Holland.
Growing Resistance
The UK anti-militarist movement is growing in strength and militancy. In 2008, Smash EDO (, which has waged a relentless five-year-long campaign against Brighton arms manufacturers EDO MBM/ITT, held two mass demonstrations attended by activists from across the UK and beyond. In November 2008, the Anti-militarist Network was formed to build for a mobilisation against the NATO parliamentary assembly in November 2009 and to act as a mutual aid network for communication between anti militarist groups. Campaigns against Heckler and Koch, a German gun manufacturer based in Nottingham, and Raytheon, in Bristol, also emerged in 2008. In January 2009, hundreds of thousands took to the streets against the Israeli massacre in Gaza and, across the UK, people took direct action against companies manufacturing weapons for the Israelis. In Brighton, six people broke into EDO and allegedly caused £300,000 worth of damage. In October 2009, the Target Brimar campaign was launched, a new local campaign aimed at closing down Brimar, a factory, in Manchester, making LCD screens for aircraft and military vehicles.
To find your local DSEi exhibitor go to and type in your postcode.
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