War Profiteer of the Month: Elbit Systems

A Watchkeeper 450 drone in flight
A Watchkeeper 450 drone in flight. Credit: made available at http://www.defenceimagery.mod.uk for reuse under the OGL (Open Government License).
Andrew Metheven

Elbit Systems, an “international defence electronics company” is Israel's largest weapons producer, employing over 12,000 people. Through it's subsidiaries around the world, the company produces a wide variety of high-tech products for the military and security industry, including:

  • military aircraft and helicopter systems, such as helmet mounted displays and cockpit electronics,

  • unmanned aircraft systems ("UAS"), including the military drones Hermes 900, Hermes 450

  • advanced electro-optics and electro-optic space systems,

  • signal intelligence ("SIGINT") systems,

  • data links, communications systems and radios.

Elbit has four subsidiaries in the UK; UAV Engines, Instro Precision, Ferranti Technologies, Elite KL, employing over 500 people. In 2016, the company announced it was looking for new acquisitions, including in the UK (and was “undettered by Brexit”!) Elbit Systems also owns companies in the USA, Latin America, South Korea, India, and Australia.


Elbit Systems is the main provider of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV's, commonly called drones) to the Israeli military. The Hermes 900 is a one tonne drone used for reconnaissance, surveillance and communications relay, and was first used by the Israeli military in Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 assault on Gaza. Other drones built by Elbit Systems used in Operation Protective Edge include the Hermes 450 – the precursor to the Hermes 900 – and the mini-UAV Skylark. Elbit drones were praised by Israeli military commanders, who claimed “Every brigade — even the reserves — got at least two air vehicles and flew them nonstop.”

Elbit Systems also provides “intrusion detection systems”, used by the Israeli separation wall, particularly around Jerusalem. Subsidiaries Elbit Electro-Optics (El-Op) and Elbit Security Systems supplied and incorporated LORROS surveillance cameras in the Ariel settlement section as well as around ar Ram.

In 2005, the UK Ministry of Defence awarded UAV Tactical Systems - a joint venture of Elbit Systems and it's British-based partner company Thales - a £1bn contract to develop the Watchkeeper 450. The project has been heavily delayed and needed extra money pumped into it – due to go operational in 2010, by 2015 the drone had seen just six days of active duty.

Data and communications equipment

At DSEI in 2015, Elbit Systems unveiled a new piece of technology for providing wireless networks to military units on battlefields and in extreme conditions. The GXR-8000 supports a wide variety of communication technologies, from traditional telephony to broadband.


In September 2009, the Norwegian Pension Fund's ethical council decided to sell the fund's stocks in Elbit Systems, because the company supplies surveillance systems for the Israeli separation wall. At a press conference to announce the decision, Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen said "We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law." In 2015, 73 MEPs called for divestment from Israeli military companies, including Elbit.

The Elbit-owned UAV Engines factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, has been repeatedly targeted by activists, including protests, roof top occupations, and blockades at its gates. Similar actions have taken place in Australia.

Key information

Based in: Israel, with subsidiaries in UK, USA, Latin America, South Korea, India, and Australia

Builds: high-tech military equipment including drones and communications equipment.

Key markets: Azerbaijan, France, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, UK, USA, Brazil and Colombia.

Financial information: 2016 profits of $254.2m (£195.89m). Revenues of over $3bn in 2016.


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