Another day, another massive windfall for the death trade

BAE training jets representing the Tempest jet program
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Arms giant BAE Systems has landed another giant windfall. This time the global arms firm has acquired a Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract extension for the Tempest jet fighter program.

Also at the feeding trough are partners like Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, and Rolls-Royce. Parts of the program will be carried out with Japan and Italy, as the two countries seek to expand their own fighter jet arsenals.

BAE Systems

BAE officials, and politicians, expressed their own delight at the Global Combat Air Program (GCAP) deal. Defence secretary Ben Wallace said:

The next tranche of funding for Future Combat Air will help fuse the combined technologies and expertise we have with our international partners – both in Europe and the Pacific – to deliver this world-leading fighter jet by 2035, protecting our skies for decades to come.

Meanwhile, BAE’s GCAP director Herman Claesen said:

This contract reflects the continued commitment by the UK Government and ensures we continue to mature this significant programme and the vital technology pipeline that will drive innovation into – and beyond – the combat air sector.

Militaristic impulse

As the Canary previously reported, the new Tempest jet deal involves national partners as well as industrial cooperation. Italy and Japan are both involved in the GCAP contract. In the case of Japan, the move marks another step away from the post-1945 pacifist commitment. Under US pressure, Japan is becoming a regional militarist power. As the Conversation previously wrote:

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The US has been pressuring Japan for some time to increase its defence spending to share the security bill in the Asia-Pacific region.

While arms firms and national government tend to celebrate new arms deals, citing ‘adversaries’ and orthodox forms of ‘security’, one Japan expert warned that the shift to a war footing:

raises concerns of entrapment into American proxy wars and increasing economic involvement in the US “military-industrial complex”, the system by which the defence sector encourages arms spending and war.

Pigs at the trough

Industry partners in the GCAP will share in the Tempest jet spoils. Among them, Leonardo UK, the British wing of an Italian arms firm whose equipment has been linked with war crimes allegations in Nigeria. Nigerian pilots were also trained at a UK military facility.

MBDA UK is a joint venture between several major arms firms including BAE. Its missiles have been sold to Saudi Arabia, which has used them to bomb Yemen.

Rolls-Royce produces a range of military equipment including jet engines. According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) it paid hundreds of millions in penalties in 2017 over bribery allegations. Yet, as CAAT details, it still enjoys vast government contracts – and wields substantial influence with the British government.

Let’s be clear – elected politicians of all stripes love snuggling up to death dealers. This isn’t just a matter of Tories courting arms firms, but Labour too. The truth is that ample space for lobbying is built into our political system.

Like a casino, the house virtually always wins in the global death trade. Except the stakes are higher than an individual bank balance. They are a matter of life and death. And as we can see here, this is particularly true for people in places like Yemen and Nigeria.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Steve Lynes, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 2.0.

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