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ARMS TRADE RESOURCE CENTER
REPORTS - Weapons at War
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Profiling the Small Arms Industry
This report profiles six small arms manufacturers, providing information on what weapons systems they produce, where and by what countries the weapons are made, and where they are sold and used. These profiles are part of our ongoing "Weapons at War" project. Alliant Techsystems, Colt Manufacturing, Denel South Africa, FN Herstal, Heckler and Koch and Saco Defense are profiled. Keep an eye out for more.
"We’re going to take the human factor out as much as possible," Major James Baldwin on how Alliant’s Objective Individual Combat Weapon will help the Army
Company History and Products
For fiscal years 1996 through 1999, the most recent years for which full data is available, Alliant Techsystems received a cumulative total of about $1.5 billion in Pentagon contracts. Total company sales were roughly $4.1 billion in total for those four years, which means that the company has depended on Pentagon contracts for about 37% of its sales over the past four years. Despite reported record profits in 1998, Alliant laid off 500 workers. A breakdown year by year is as follows
YEAR DOD CONTRACTS (millions) DOD RANK % sales to DOD
Although contracts dropped off a bit in 1997 and 1998, the fact that they went over $400 million again in 1999 and that they accounted for over 40% of the company's sales in that year suggests that Alliant has either not been trying to diversify out of military products or has not succeeded in doing so. Percentages are approximations, because the company fiscal year doesn't match the government fiscal year, but the average over the 4 years -- 37% of Alliant's business from the Pentagon -- suggests a high ongoing rate of defense dependency.
Alliant Techsystems makes some of the deadliest and most problematic weapons systems in the United States (and global) arsenals:
TRIDENT II SLBM: Alliant Tech is responsible for the propulsion system for the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile, a multiple warhead, nuclear armed missile that is one of the few major long-range nuclear delivery vehicles still in ongoing production for U.S. forces. Alliant’s nuclear production wing, Hercules Inc., has suffered two major whistleblower lawsuits in recent years, paying out a total of almost $60 million in 1998.
Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW): Alliant is the prime contractor for the OICW, the Army's next generation combat rifle, touted as "revolutionizing warfare." It will be capable of firing two types of rounds: a conventional bullet, like the current generation M-16 rifle, or a 20mm grenade. The $10,000 per copy rifle is designed to "see around" walls and barriers, and unleash an exploding shell that will spray shrapnel at anyone attempting to hide from the person firing it. "Our theme is ‘no place to hide’" says Army program manager. Weapons analyst Michael T. Klare has raised serious questions about the morality of pursuing this new, more indiscriminate variation on the Army's current combat rifle, because it seems more likely to be used to harm civilians. Each pull of the trigger sends out a barrage of shells, relieving the solider of the need to take careful or steady aim. "We’re going to take the human factor out as much as possible," explains Major James Baldwin of the U.S. Army. If and when the weapon is accepted, Alliant will receive a production contract valued at over $1.5 billion. Once the weapon enters the U.S. arsenal, the pressure to sell to NATO allies could become almost irresistible.
Anti-Personnel Land Mines: Alliant is a major producer of anti-personnel land mines. Although it is currently prohibited from exporting these mines under U.S. law, the company has refused an appeal from Human Rights Watch to renounce any further production of these deadly systems. Nineteen other U.S. companies have signed this pledge.
Depleted Uranium Shells: Alliant makes depleted uranium shells for use in U.S. tanks, armored personnel carriers, and howitzers. These systems are the subject of great controversy because of their impact on the environment and human health in areas where they have been used (like Iraq) and tested (like Alliant's test range in Socorro, NM). Weapons analyst William Arkin estimates that 300 tons of depleted uranium was dispersed during the Persian Gulf war, mostly from the 30mm and 120mm DU shells. Alliant has produced over 15 million 30 mm PGU-14 shells (used in the A-10’s Gatling gun) for the U.S. Air Force and over a million 120mm M829 rounds (described by the Army as the world’s most lethal kinetic energy shell) for the U.S. Army. While the DoD denies any link between DU and Gulf War syndrome, veterans groups and scientists both challenge this claim.
Military exports: Alliant's major export has been the MK-46 torpedo, which it has sold to Bahrain, Egypt, and Taiwan.
Other products: Numerous other weapons which lend themselves to cruel and indiscriminate use against civilian targets, such as the Selectable Lightweight Attack Munition (SLAM), which the company says is "a compact, lightweight, hand-emplaced munition developed for U.S. special operations forces enabling them to engage targets from five inches to 25 feet"; the demolition munition, which is tailored for destroying piers and bridges; and various munitions and fuzing devices designed to set off incendiary explosions or penetrate "hardened targets" (e.g., underground bunkers containing the leadership of an adversary nation).
Colt Manufacturing Co.
Company History and Products
Rescued from bankruptcy in 1994 by Donald Zilkha (and almost $30 million from the state of Connecticut), the company now finds itself caught between public outrage unleashed by a rash of high school shootings and a mountain of lawsuits filed by cities fed up with gun violence. The result of this growing anti-gun sentiment is lowered sales and stock prices. Between 1993 and 1997, domestic production of firearms in the United States has dropped from 5.2 million to 3.7 million. Drops in handgun sales have been most noticeable—from $28 million in 1993 to $1.4 million in 1997. Colt saw only a small $2 million profit in 1997, from $96 million in sales.
In the fall of 1999, Colt eliminated its civilian hand gun business, stating that despite higher profits, it had become "too risky." In a move to distance itself from the lawsuits and blame for gun violence, Colt bid for competitor Heckler and Koch, and later FN Herstal, proposing that the "combined company would be in a strong position to compete for military rifles and grenade launchers in the U.S. and Europe." When those deals fell through, Colt purchased Saco Defense, maker of grenade launchers and light military weapons, and Ultra Light Weapons, a small West Virginia maker of expensive hunting rifles. Colt sold Saco to General Dynamics in May 2000 for an undisclosed sum of cash, but the company is continuing to market to the military. One of Colt’s new weapons is the M4A1 Carbine with accessory kit, for U.S. Special Operations Forces, "designed to enhance [their] lethality."
The fact that Colt no longer produces handguns did not exclude it from this latest round of suits. This summer, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer made New York the first state to sue the firearms industry, following on the heels of more than 30 city and country lawsuits. Spitzer offered a carrot along with the stick in the form of a "Code of Conduct" for the gun industry. Most refused, including Colt, Beretta, Sturm Ruger and Co, and responded with their own suit, charging that "self appointed gun control politicians" were trampling the U.S. constitution in their effort to "legislate gun control by economic sanction." They claimed that "if these politicians are not stopped, our democracy will be undermined."
Colt produces a variety of small arms and light weapons, including:
The M-16: Worst Case Scenario
Colt: More for the Military
As its investment in "smart guns" demonstrates, Colt is working on more than one track to escape litigation. Another tack is a massive lobbying campaign to pass laws barring counties and municipalities from mounting liability lawsuits. Colt CEO admits "we’re writing a lot of checks and I predict that we’ll be writing a lot more. We want to win lawsuits or use politics to make them irrelevant." Among these checks are two from CEO Donald Zilkha, one to gun control advocate Chuck Schumer for $2,000 and another for $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. While Colt does not disclose its campaign contributions or lobbying expenditures, the National Rifle Association, of which Colt is a contributing member, spent $3 million on lobbying efforts, and gave $4.3 million to federal candidates in less than two years. George W. Bush ranks number one in contributions received from the gun industry, at $26,750 for his run for presidency.
Colt’s lobbying money seems to have been well spent, at least when it comes to avoiding bans on its dangerous assault rifles. Despite his reputation as a gun control advocate, Democratic Vice president contender Joe Lieberman fought for and won an exemption from the 1994 assault rifle ban for Colt Sporter. This gun, close cousin to the M-16, has shown up often among the weapons seized by police in drug raids. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, of the 2,890 Colt rifles seized between 1995-1998, 375 have been Sporters. The Hartford Courant editorialized, "Mr. Law and Order… turned soft when it came to protecting a deadly rifle merely because it was made in the state."
How does one face a mother to tell her that a Denel-made firearm, shell or bullet that killed her child provided someone with a job?
Company History and Products
Denel is in the midst of an effort to privatize and develop partnerships with international arms manufactures. Most recently, in March 2000, the company signed a tri-party agreement to become a strategic supply partner to BAE (one of the world’s largest aerospace and defense company) and Saab (Europe’s "leading high tech company"). While this development brings Denel into the advanced weaponry arena, it maintains a strong hold on the small arms and light weapons industry through its many subsidiaries, including:
Denel’s two prestige products are the Rooivalk attack helicopter and its 155mm-howitzer high mobility, self-propelled artillery systems-- the G5 and G6. Denel also makes 127mm multiple rocket launchers and CB-470 cluster bombs. Terry Crawford Browne, an analyst with Economists Allied for Arms Reductions in South Africa notes that "Denel portrays itself as the cutting edge of South African technology, and as being a leading export manufacturing company. In fact, much of its technology has been pirated from the U.S. and other countries and exports of armaments amount to less than 1% of all South African exports."
Denel’s land mine clearing subsidiary, Menchem designed landmines before starting landmine clearance in 1991 and it continues to produce rifle grenades and rockets, leading many to question its credentials as a humanitarian champion. Menchem has been accused of "double dipping" -- being paid to de-mine areas like Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Cambodia of landmines it produced. Managing director, Vernon Joynt countered, "We never built mines, we only designed them." Menchem’s hiring practices have been under scrutiny since it was reveled that apartheid era elite military and police officers are on its payrolls, including manager Johan "Sakkie" Van Zyl, who led the military unit responsible for the 1985 stabbing death of activist Matthew Gomiwe. Van Zyl is currently overseeing Menchem’s de-mining project in Bosnia.
Sales to Regions of Conflict
While Algeria has suffered a protracted civil war, with an estimated 120,000 killed since 1992, South Africa maintains that the country "has a democratically-elected, internationally-recognized government, and that weapons sold to Algeria would only be used for external self-defense." This doublespeak has allowed for the sale of almost R400 million in the last two years, including large quantities of small arms. A sale of R100 million worth of Denel’s surveillance equipment is in the works. The United Arab Emirates is awaiting shipment of $9.6 million in naval ammunition, and sales are in the works to Oman, Malaysia, and Kuwait.
In 1997 India was the largest export market for South African arms and went on to use those weapons, including combat vehicles equipped with Denel shells, in 1999 fighting with Pakistan over the contested Kashmir region.
Denel has relied heavily on Presidents Mandela and Mbeki, and Defense Minsters Joe Modise and Mosiuos Lekota to promoted exports of Rooivalk helicopters, as well as G5 and G6 artillery pieces to countries such as Algeria, India and China. Denel’s R8 billion deal to sell G6 artillery to India is being actively marketed by the Defense Ministry. Government ministers are adamant, even passionate, about foreign sales, in part because of Denel’s recurring financial disasters. South Africa has poured billions to subsidize and promote the Rooivalk helicopter without a single export contract resulting. In fact, despite R4 billion in public investment, Denel has lost R1.3 billion in the last three years.
Guns for Oil
FN Manufacturing Inc./FN Herstal
The Herstal Group
Company History and Products
Browning of Morgan, Utah produces shotguns, rifles, handguns and the Browning M1919 A4, A6. US Repeating Arms Company, located in New Haven, CT, specializes in Winchester rifles and shotguns.
It is no coincidence that FN Manufacturing, the company's main US facility, is in South Carolina, the home state of former Senate Armed Services Chairman, Strom Thurmond, and current House Armed Services Chairman, Floyd Spence. FN Manufacturing produces small caliber weapons and machine guns such as M16, M240, M249, SAW, and the 49 pistol for military and law enforcement markets. FN Manufacturing is one of the US Army's prime contractors of small arms.
FN Herstal produces:
Through years of US arms sales and military aid, the M16 rifle has ended up in the arsenals of more than 50 countries, including Cambodia, Guatemala, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The M16 has also been produced in Singapore, South Korea, and the Philippines.
In addition to FN Herstal's facilities in Europe, North America, and Asia, FN assault rifles are manufactured under license in Indonesia. While the US has a long history of supplying weapons to the Indonesian military, reports from the scene have documented the use of M16 rifles by the anti-independence death squads (set up by the Indonesian military) against the people of East Timor. FN Herstal also assisted in building Eldoret, an ammunition factory in Kenya. The factory produces 20 million 7.62 NATO-standard rounds of ammunition a year which is used throughout war-torn Central Africa and the Great Lakes region.
Furthermore, the Belgian government was recently in the middle of controversy over the shipment of 500 P-90 machine guns and 500,000 rounds of ammunition destined for a private firm in Mexico. The P-90 was designed for the use of NATO military forces, governments and law enforcement and, because of its 'lethality', the Belgian government made assurances that it would never be exported to any private institutions or companies. IANSA reported that the "super weapons" have the ability to penetrate 48 layers of the anti-ballistic material used in bullet-proof vests, weigh only three kilograms when loaded, and can store up to 50 bullets. To date, the Belgian Foreign Minister has temporarily suspended the transfer, but has defended the sale saying that the P-90s were actually destined for the Mexican police. The end user certificate, however, did not mention the police, only the private company which is a representative of FN in Mexico.
Heckler & Koch/Royal Ordnance
Company History and Products
Royal Ordnance and Heckler & Koch produce/have produced:
H&K is partnering with Alliant Tech Systems of the US and five other international firms to develop the Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) for the U.S. military. The OICW is being marketed as 'two weapons in one,' with one barrel that shoots a 5.56 mm shell and acts like an M-16 for close-range fighting, and a second barrel that fires 20 mm air-burst shells that function like small grenades. This new high-tech weapon is expected to be available in 2007 at a cost of $10,000 to $12,000 each.
In addition to the countries listed above, Heckler & Koch guns are also made under license (or have been) in Thailand and Burma. These licensed production agreements raise serious concerns over the inconsistencies with individual countries export controls. For instance, Peter Abel points out in Running Guns that H&K MP5 weapons were showing up in Bosnia and Serbia, breaching the UN arms embargo levied in 1991. "Prior to the UN embargo, it was not illegal for UK firms to export to Yugoslavia, although it was for German firms." Abel notes that, "In a pattern that would be repeated with license production in other countries, neither company technically had broken its national laws, but H&K weapons had ended up in a conflict zone."
MKEK of Turkey manufactures an assortment of H&K small arms, including the G3A3/A4 assault rifles and the MP5A2/A3 and MP5K sub-machine guns. As Abel notes, Turkey's own horrific human rights record and ongoing repression of its Kurdish population has caused many European countries to halt arms sales to Turkey, yet small arms production continues unabated under licensed production agreements. Additionally, Turkey exports the small arms it produces to some 38 countries, including Ecuador, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Peru, and Tunisia. In a more blatant attempt to evade export controls, Turkey shipped 500 sub-machine guns to Indonesia in September 1999 (at the height of the violence in East Timor), after an EU embargo on arms to Indonesia prevented Germany or the UK from supplying the weapons.
Heckler & Koch (US distributor in Virginia) received close to $2 million in US DOD contracts in 1999 for 40 caliber pistols, semi-automatic shotguns, and miscellaneous weapons, while Royal Ordnance received $29 million in DOD contracts for bulk explosives, demolition materials, and other 'classified' weapons systems. BAE systems as a whole received $761 million in DOD contracts for 1999.
Saco Defense/General Dynamics Armament Systems
Company History and Products
Saco/GDAS produces a variety of armament systems and munitions including:
In 1999 Saco Defense received more than $16 million in DOD contracts for the purchase of Mk-19s, M60s, and other classified weapon systems, while it's new parent company, General Dynamics, received close to $5 billion in DOD contracts.
Most recently, GDAS was awarded a $39 million contract from the US Army for M2 machine guns, gun bolts, and barrels. The company also received a $126.4 million order from the US Army and Air Force for HYDRA-70 rocket systems, with a maximum potential value of $1.2 billion over the next five years.
The US government has facilitated the sales and giveaways (through its' Foreign Military Sales and Excess Defense Article programs) of M60 machine guns to Panama, Peru, Colombia, and Jordan; and M2 machine guns to Egypt, Greece, Thailand, and Tunisia.
The US Environmental Protection Agency accused Saco Defense of violating chromium emissions standards in 1997 and 1998, once by 20 percent and once by 33 percent. Saco has agreed to pay $75,800 to settle the claim.
Arms Trade Resource Center www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms
Minnesota Alliant Action www.circlevision.org/alliantaction.html
Handgun Control www.handguncontrol.org
Federation of American Scientists Arms Sales Monitoring Project www.fas.org/asmp
Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University support.jhsph.edu/departments/gunpolicy/
ECAAR South Africa and Terry Crawford Browne www.ecaar.org
The Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers www.nisat.org
Human Right Watch’s new report "A Question of Principle: Arms Trade and Human Rights" www.hrw.org/reports/2000/safrica
Running Guns (ed. Lora Lumpe, 2000)
Council for a Livable World www.clw.org
Alliant’s website www.atk.com
FN Herstal www.herstalgroup.com
BAE Systems www.baesystems.com
General Dynamics www.generaldynamics.com