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Inside UK arms fair where firms selling weapons to Israel showcase lethal missiles

Companies selling weapons to Israel have been showcasing missiles at a three-day arms fair in London.

The International Training Technology Exhibition (IT2EC) – an annual display of the latest advances in modern warfare – and accompanying Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) conference was held at the Excel arena in Newham, east London, this week.

More than 50 nations and 120 companies were invited to the event covered by i, including Elbit Systems UK, a subsidiary of the Israeli firm experts claim manufactured the Hermes 450 drone that killed aid workers in Gaza earlier this month including three Britons.

The drone was powered by an engine produced by UAV Engines, an Elbit subsidiary based in the Midlands, the Campaign Against Arms Trade has said.

German army officials testing VR military weapons
Weapons are displayed at a stall run by Dutch electronics manufacturer Re-Lion at the International Training Technology Exhibition (Photo: Caolan Magee)

Other major arms exporters, including UK companies BAE systems, L3 Harris and Rolls Royce all exhibited at the event, as did US firm Lockheed Martin, which manufactures Israel’s F-16 and F-35 fighter jets and showcased simulations of the stealth bomber in action.

Campaigners have said that components made by British manufacturers make up 15 per cent of the value of the F-35.

Prospective buyers were able to sit in a virtual reality F-35 cockpit and shoot at targets. A sales representative told i: “It’s epic,” before adding: “It’s the exact same as the real deal.”

The event came as Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Wednesday confirmed the UK Government will not suspend arms exports to Israel, after mounting pressure from activists and lawyers who claim selling arms to Israel is in violation of international law.

The Government had previously denied it provided “lethal or military equipment” to Israel and has called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

A pilot-training simulator for Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and F-35, which has been used by Israel in Gaza and contains UK-made components, at a London arms fair (Photo:
BAE Systems exhibiting a next-generation submarine at the IT2EC and Undersea Defence Technology event (Photo: Caolan Magee)

The Alba Party’s Kenny MacAskill – MP for East Lothian – told i the display of weapons was “perverse”.

“It’s bad enough that the UK is complicit in the manufacture and supply of weaponry that’s killing indiscriminately in Gaza. But to be flaunting that is nauseating.

“It isn’t a game or reality show in Palestine, but unmitigated horror for millions. Arms sales to Israel must cease and so must shows that revel in the carnage being inflicted.”

Other nations in attendance included Australia, which had a stall showcasing weaponry, while German military officials in army overalls tried out the latest virtual reality military equipment.

The IT2EC spokesperson Gary Waterfall told i: “There is a whole wrath [sic] of nations here.

“We adhere to the really strict Government protocols as to who you can – and cannot – have as part of the exhibition. So it’s not our decision, it’s UK policy of who can come to the show.”

The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) told i: “These conferences are commercially run by private companies – not Government events.

More than 120 companies exhibited at the annual three-day conference and exhibition this week (Photo: Caolan Magee)
InVeris advertises itself as the leading supplier of integrated live fire and virtual reality weapons training for law enforcement in the US (Photo: Caolan Magee)

“Therefore, it is for organisers to ensure all relevant regulations are complied with, including those relating to the invitation of exhibitors and attendees.

“This particular event is run by Undersea Defence Technology (UDT) and the compliance section of their website contains further details on how they do this.”

The UDT website states that weapons and other restricted items promoted and displayed would require import/export licences from the relevant government authorities.

Mr Waterfall added: “This isn’t an event where contracts are signed and deals are done – it’s more about networking.”

However, one sales representative told i he had signed contracts at the event in the past, adding that one of his companies’ customers was Israel.

The Government has identified 28 licences and 28 pending applications as being “most likely to be used by the IDF in offensive operations in Gaza”, according to documents from a legal challenge by Palestinian NGO Al-Haq against the DBT at the High Court in January.

The “priority” licences included components for: combat aircraft; utility helicopters; armoured personnel carriers; naval vessels; radars; targeting equipment and small arms ammunition.

Export rules stipulate that export licences should be rejected or revoked if the DBT finds there is a “clear risk” that UK-made weaponry might be used “to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law”.

Human Rights Watch has called on the Government to immediately halt arms transfers to Israel, claiming adding that “since 2015, the UK has licensed at least £474m worth of military exports to Israel, including components for combat aircrafts, missiles, tanks, technology, small arms and ammunition”.

The event came as Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Wednesday confirmed the UK Government will not suspend arms exports to Israel (Photo: Caolan Magee)
More than 50 nations were represented at the event (Photo: Caolan Magee)

CAAT’s spokesperson, Emily Apple, told i: “It is utterly sickening that not only are companies exhibiting at UDT complicit in Israel’s genocide, they are gleefully marketing the exact same equipment, such as the F16 and F35 combat aircraft, that Israel is using to massacre Palestinians.

“Arms fairs such as UDT will only cause more death and devastation across the world. These companies should be facing an arms embargo, not profiting from Israel’s horrific war crimes.”

Lord Cameron said this week that he had reviewed the most recent legal advice on Gaza and the UK’s position on export licences was “unchanged”, adding that it put the UK in line with “like-minded countries”.

The US is Israel’s biggest supplier, providing about 68 per cent of foreign-sourced weapons, with Germany supplying roughly 30 per cent. Italy reportedly exported $2.3m worth of arms and munitions to Israel in the last three months of 2023.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague in February ordered the Netherlands to ban export of components for the F-35, citing potential complicity in Israeli human rights abuses and a violation of international law. A similar case to suspend the export of F-35 parts to the US is pending in Denmark.

Canada, Japan, Spain and Belgium have all announced that they would stop exporting arms to Israel. Australia claims it has not supplied weapons since the start of the Gaza conflict.

Weapons displayed at the arms expo

UK company BAE Systems, which manufactures components of the F-35 fighter jets that are sold to Israel, displayed weapons at the event including a Sting Ray Mod lightweight torpedo, which can “detect, classify and attack targets autonomously”.

Another weapon on display from BAE was the Kingfisher Stand-off ASW (anti-submarine warfare) Effector, which is marketed as a “cost-effective alternative to torpedoes” as it only consists of “approximately 3kg of explosives.”

French-Italian consortium EuroTorp displayed a MU90, a Nato-standard-calibre fire-and-forget lightweight torpedo, which had the flags of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates painted on the side of the weapon, showcasing the countries with which the company had done business.

US company Lockheed Martin exhibited simulations of F-35 fighter jets, and customers at its display stand could also scan a QR code exhibiting a vertical launch anti-submarine rocket – which is designed to be shot from a naval vessel, before entering the water where “the torpedo is then free to acquire the target.”

Turkish based arms company Aselsan displayed a Deringöz AUV, which is used for surveillance and mine detection, while Israeli company DSIT systems unveiled its new DogFish Sonar System, which is designed to autonomously detect, track and classify underwater threats such as submarines and mini-submarines.

On the same day as the conference, Turkey announced it had banned exports to Israel following the Gaza health ministry’s reports of the killing of more than 33,000 Palestinians.

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