BAE Systems The alternative recruitment guide

January 14, 2009

BAE Systems

The Alternative

Recruitment Guide


The University careers service recommends that you find out as much about companies recruiting as you can. We feel that this is a very reasonable suggestion therefore to help out below you will find information that BAE systems probably will not include in their recruitment pitch.


3rd Largest Arms Manufacturer in the World. Largest UK arms Company. £13.7 billion sales, £11.8 billion military sales, 83% military[1]. Less than 20% of BAE’s sales are to the UK[2].


Products include: Assault rifles , Combat Aircraft, Unmanned Aircraft, Nuclear Submarines, Warships, Nuclear weapons (via its subsidiary MBDA), Missiles, Torpedoes, Tanks, Artillery Guns, Munitions, Armoured Vehicles, Radar Systems, handcuffs and shackles used in Guantanamo Bay and Saudi Arabia (from their subsidiary Hiatts[3]).


BAE claims to sell to customers in more than 100 countries[4]. Military customers of note include the UK, US, Israel, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia (Hawk Jets sold during the violent repression of East Timor), India, Pakistan, Tanzania, Lebanon, Poland, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Romania, Chile, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Columbia, Egypt, Ghana, Afghanistan, Brazil, Columbia, Qatar, Algeria (via Qatar)[5], Malaysia, Kenya, Czech Republic, Sweden, Morocco (including attempting to secure a deal in the conflict area of Western Sahara), Greece, Germany, Italy, Austria, Australia, Finland, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Nepal, Uruguay and Vietnam,


There has been considerable concern at the supply by BAE Systems of ‘Head up Displays’ (HUD) for F-16 fighter aircraft destined for Israel. The first of Israel’s new order arrived in 2005 and the first 25 will F16s were fitted with BAE Systems HUDs. The remaining 77 were be fitted with Elbit HUDs. BAE systems are also supplying part of the ‘navigation suite’ and elements of the ‘self protection suite’ (including a BAE Systems/Rokar flare) for all Israel’s F16 jets. BAE also maintains a permanent office in Jerusalem.[6]

It has been rumoured that BAE’s “Suter” airborne network attack system was used by Israel in its bombing of Syria in 2007. “Suter” is developed by BAE Systems and integrated into U.S. unmanned aircraft by L-3 Communications. The system has been used or at least tested operationally in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last year.

The technology allows users to invade communications networks, see what enemy sensors see and even take over as systems administrator so sensors can be manipulated into positions so that approaching aircraft can’t be seen, they say. The process involves locating emitters with great precision and then directing data streams into them that can include false targets and misleading messages algorithms that allow a number of activities including control.[7]

Its is timely to remind readers that arms contracts typically last many years with support, upgrades and staged deliveries being provided many years after the original deal was signed.

Corruption and other scandals

BAE systems is currently being investigated over deals in Chile, Czech Republic, Qatar, Romania, South Africa and Tanzania. A serious fraud office investigation into the Al Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia was shut down in 2006 over suspect reasons of national security.

In 2008 BAE released the “Woolf Report” into ethical practice at the company, the report failed to examine any past problems at the company and did not address key problems in judging which (or indeed any) arms deals can be considered ethical. Although BAE claims the report to be independent, the author, Lord Woolf, was paid £6,000 per day for writing it.[8]


A man named Paul Mercer was exposed in 2007 as having spied on Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) after court action. He was revealed to have been paid £2,500 a month by the giant arms company’s security department for his work against CAAT. He claims he was being paid to simply monitor the group and its activities. BAE is facing a wide range of bribery allegations’. Mercer obtained a CD with details of confidential CAAT legal advice and at the end of 2006 passed it to Michael McGinty, head of BAE’s security department, BAE was successfully sued in the high court in 2007 and it was revealed that the company had been “obstructing justice” in the words of the judge. The judge decided there was “undoubtedly” evidence supporting suspicions that the firm had in the past penetrated the campaign to obtain information covertly, BAE were forced to admit their source for receiving CAAT’s legal advice.[9]

In 2003, the Sunday Times revealed that BAE had carried out a “widespread spying operation” on its critics. “Bank accounts were accessed, computer files downloaded and private correspondence with members of parliament and ministers secretly copied and passed on.” The paper said the arms company made use of a network run by a former consultant for the Ministry of Defence called Evelyn Le Chene. “Le Chene recruited at least half a dozen agents to infiltrate CAAT’s headquarters at Finsbury Park, north London, and a number of regional offices.” They provided BAE with advanced intelligence on CAAT’s campaign against the sale of its Hawk aircraft to the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia. The arms company also obtained CAAT’s membership list, its bank account details, the identity of its donors, its letters to ministers, even the contents of private diaries belonging to its staff.[10] The paid national events manager for CAAT, a man called Martin Hogbin was later found to be a mole within the CAAT organisation.


Saudi Arabia

The Guardian first disclosed in 2003 how the company operated a £20-million slush fund to “entertain” Saudi princes who might favourably influence its chances of winning the “al-Yamamah” deal to buy warships and fighter jets. “Allegations include the provision of prostitutes, sports cars, yachts, first-class plane tickets, Mercedes cars with drivers, unlimited restaurant meals, cup final tickets, club memberships, gambling trips, TV sets and sound systems.” An internal BAE security report referred to allegations of “sex and bondage with Saudi princes”. [11]

bae2Allegations have surfaced from investigations by the Guardian, BBC’s Newsnight and the Serious Fraud Office, they found that bribes totalling £1bn were paid to the Saudi Prince Bandar by BAE systems in return for the £43bn Al-Yamamah arms deal, in which BAE systems sold Tornado aircraft to Saudi Arabia, also implicated for corruption in parts of the deal were Rolls Royce, Thorn EMI, Mark Thatcher and Jonathan Aitkin as well as the Thatcher government.

In 2006 Tony Blair closed the SFO investigation in the arms deal after lobbying from BAE systems and threats made by the Saudi Government threatening to cancel the new BAE systems Al-Salam Eurofighter deal and ending intelligence sharing. CAAT and The Corner House challenged the closure of the investigation in the High Court and won. The High Court quashed the SFO decision to terminate the investigation. In a strongly worded judgment, the Court described how BAE and the Saudi regime had lobbied Tony Blair and his ministers to have the investigation dropped. The judges went so far as to describe the Saudi threat as a “successful attempt by a foreign government to pervert the course of justice in the United Kingdom”[12]. The decision has since been appealed against in the house of lords by the government and BAE, the Lords decided that the investigation could legally be stopped for reasons of national security but Lady Hale said that ”I confess I would have liked to be able to uphold the decision … of the divisional court. It is extremely distasteful that an independent public official should feel himself obliged to give way to threats of any sort[13].

The case is still being investigated by the US Department of Justice, FBI and the UK government was recently condemned by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for their failure to tackle bribery looking specifically at the failure to investigate BAE systems.[14]

South Africa

More than £100m was secretly paid by the arms company BAE to sell warplanes to South Africa, according to allegations in a detailed police dossier. The leaked evidence from South African police and the British Serious Fraud Office quotes a BAE agent recommending “financially incentivising” politicians. In the arms deal, the new ANC government in South Africa agreed to spend a controversial £1.6bn buying fleets of Hawk and Gripen warplanes. Critics said the country, beset by unemployment and HIV/Aids, could not afford it. The Hawks, rejected by the military, cost twice as much as Italian equivalents. It is alleged that BAE systems funnelled corrupt payments to Joe Modise, the Defence minister at the time and numerous aides.[15] BAE is accused in the reports of corrupt relationships with an arms tycoon, John Bredenkamp, recently blacklisted in the US for his links with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. BAE’s former marketing director for southern Africa, Allan McDonald, has been speaking to police, the leaked files say. He allegedly told them Bredenkamp “gave progress reports directly to Mike Turner”. Turner, who has been interviewed under caution by the SFO, stepped down last year as BAE’s chief executive. Bredenkamp-linked companies were paid £40m by BAE to promote the arms deal. [16]


In September 2005 The Guardian reported that BAE had secretly paid £1 million to General Pinochet in return for help over arms deals. The payments were said to have appeared in US banking records, unearthed by a Chilean judge pursuing Pinochet for tax evasion. They were made between 1997 and 2004. A Serious Fraud Office team is reported to have met the judge in Santiago.[17]


In 2001, Tony Blair overruled Clare Short and Gordon Brown to grant an export licence for BAE’s sale of a military air-traffic control system to one of the world’s poorest countries, Tanzania. The World Bank had pointed out that the contract was ridiculously expensive – Tanzania could have bought a better system elsewhere for a quarter of the price. In January the Guardian revealed that BAE Systems allegedly paid a $12m (£6.2m) “commission” to an agent who brokered the deal.[18]


Following the sale of a package of UK arms to Qatar in 1996, BAE reportedly paid a £7m “commission” into three Jersey trust funds under the control of Qatar’s Foreign Minister. A criminal investigation began in Jersey in 2000 but, with Qatari pressure, a jittery UK arms industry and Qatar’s support seen as vital in prosecuting the “war on terror”, the investigation ended in 2002 on “public interest” grounds. The Qatari Foreign Minister denied any wrongdoing but agreed to pay Jersey £6m for “perceived damage”. The investigation was uncovered by the Jersey Evening Post and is still under investigation by the SFO.17


In June 2006, with the arrest of a BAE agent, it emerged that the 2003 sale of two ex-Royal Navy frigates to Romania by BAE was under investigation by the SFO and Ministry of Defence Police. Payments of £7 million in “secret commissions” were allegedly made to clinch the £116 million ship refurbishment deal.17

Czech Republic

In November 2006 the sale of Gripen fighter aircraft to the Czech Republic became linked with an SFO investigation. An initial deal to buy 24 of the aircraft was cancelled because the Czech Government had to deal instead with the devastating floods in 2002. However, two years later, a lease deal for 14 Gripen aircraft was signed. In 2003 The Guardian said that the US had accused BAE of “corrupt practice” following reports from the CIA and rival arms companies and that the Czech police had confirmed bribery attempts by BAE. In February 2007 Swedish broadcaster SVT showed hidden-camera coverage of a former Czech foreign minister admitting that “money changed hands” with politicians over the Gripen deal. That month a senior Swedish prosecutor started an investigation into the contract due to the involvement of Saab, the part-BAE-owned manufacturers of Gripen aircraft. Czech police re-opened their inquiries.17


[1] World Rank is from the 2006 top 100 taken from Defense News Top 100 July 2007

[2] CAAT Publications – Arms Fairs, DSEI (2003),, Accessed 5/11/07

[3] As used on the famous Nelson Mandela, Thomas, 2006, Ebury Press pp212-222

[4] The Guardian, 7/6/2007, David Leigh & Rob Evans, “BAE Systems Profile”,

[5] CorporateWatch – BAE systems, A corporate Profile 2003,

[6] CAAT, 6/2005, Harald Molgaard, “Arms exports and collaborations: the UK and Israel”

[7] Danger room, 4/10/07, Sharon Weinberger, “How Israel spoofed syria’s air defense system”,

[8] The Guardian 6/5/2008, David Leigh & Sadie Gray, “BAE paid too little heed to ethics, says report”

[9] The Guardian 27/2/2007, David Leigh & Rob Evans, “BAE to reveal source of leak on legal advice”

[10] The Times 28/9/2003, “How the woman at No 27 ran spy network for arms firm”

[11] The Guardian 11/9/2003, David Leigh & Rob Evans, “BAE accused of arms deal slush fund”

[13] Guardian 31/7/2008 “’He was confronted by an ugly and unwelcome threat’”,

[14] Guardian 17/10/2008, Andrew Sparrow, “Government condemned for failure to tackle bribery”,

[15] Mail and Guardian 12/1/2009, Sam Sole and Nic Dawes, “BAE’s web of influence in South Africa”

[16] The Guardian, 6/12/2008, David Leigh and Rob Evans, “BAE accused of £100 m secret payments in South Africa arms deal”

[17] A seriously funny attempt to get the Serious Fraud Office in the dock! September 2007, Campaign Against the Arms Trade

[18] The Guardian, 13/2/07, George Monbiot, “The Parallel universe of BAE: covert, dangerous and beyond the rule of law,