BAE Systems: Products/Projects

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A Corporate Profile

By Corporate Watch UK

Completed June 2002









As befits a ‘truly global’ company, BAE SYSTEMS covers a wide range of products and projects. Few of them, however, are anything that the ordinary consumer would ever buy. BAE products are mostly intended for the defence procurement of nation states, and to a lesser extent, the huge budgets of airlines such as British Airways.


BAE undertakes both large, capital-intensive projects such as the manufacture of the ‘Future Carrier’ (intended to replace Britain’s current ‘Invincible’ class of aircraft carrier) and smaller-scale, more intricate work - such as the development and manufacture of thermal imaging and radar equipment. Undoubtedly, however, and despite the rather beguiling ‘civilian applications’ section on their website, the majority of their production goes directly into military applications.


The Avionics department of BAE deals with the more intricate and small-scale projects, covering areas such as radar, weapon guidance systems, satellite communications technology, thermal imaging, and electronic warfare. All of these smaller products come into use in BAE’s own range of military vehicles, which, as they proudly point, out cover land, sea and air.[19]



BAE manufactures a wide range of military aircraft, from the now completed lines of Tornado and Harrier aircraft, to the infamous Hawk attack fighter, and to the joint European project of the Eurofighter. Other aircraft projects include the Gripen fighter (produced in collaboration with SAAB) and the much discussed American project, the Joint Strike Fighter. As well as having huge potential in the American market, one of the variants of the JSF is tipped to be the British Ministry of Defence replacement for the outdated Harrier jump jet.



On the sea, BAE has received provisional acceptance of its bid to construct the ‘Future Carriers’ (due to come online in 2012), and firm acceptance of its Type 45 Anti-Air Destroyers (the first of which, HMS Daring, will be operational in 2007). It also has a virtual monopoly on the British ship-building industry.



In ground warfare BAE has less of a presence, concentrating its capital intensive projects where they can benefit its manufacturing concerns (i.e. its shipyards). It is working on several projects for land based military application, however, including the Lancer recon vehicle, the description of which provides a prime example of BAE’s corporate-speak. As they so eloquently put it; ‘the LANCER solution delivers a high degree of data capture, fusion, interpretation and communication with other assets including UAV’s inside the digitised battlespace’.[20] In other words, the Lancer project utilises BAE’s high technology engineering innovations to more effectively guide tanks to where they can kill people.


Civilian Projects

BAE does have some civilian projects, almost all of which are concerned with avionics. Its Avro RJ jet is no longer manufactured but is still in use by over 60 airlines. These include British Airways and Lufthansa. Its replacement, the Avro RJX, is likely to be similarly popular. BAE is also involved in the Airbus Industrie consortium with European partners, largely in manufacturing the wings for Airbus jets. Airbus is one of only two manufacturers in the market for commercial aircraft seating more than 100 passengers. Airbus captures around 50% of all commercial airline orders. Airbus is owned by BAE SYSTEMS and EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company), holding 20% and 80% respectively.[21] However, it is rumoured that BAE may well exercise its prerogative to pull out of this project in 2004 in favour of more military projects.[22] After all, the civilian aircraft business is facing a depression at the time of writing, whereas the military sector certainly is not.

[19] BAE SYSTEMS Facts, Business Units, BAE SYSTEMS website:, accessed 29/4/02

[20] 'LANCER', BAE SYSTEMS website:, accessed 29/4/02

[21]'International Partnership - Airbus (BAE SYSTEMS 20%)', BAE website:, accessed 27 April 2002

[22] BAE SYSTEMS Alternative Report 2001, CAAT website, pdf version:, html version:, accessed 29/4/02