The annual general meeting of the arms company Lockheed Martin will be held the 28th of April this year. In this meeting, a report is given to Lockheed Martin’s shareholders on the company’s strategy and productivity during the last year. This meeting will surely not bring many surprises for its shareholders: according to figures presented by the International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the multinational Lockeed Martin is clearly among the top three in the list of the 100 arms producing companies with the highest profits between 2002 and 2008, and between 2009 and 2018, it has topped the list. In 2021, Lockheed Martin was the top-earning “defense” company,1 followed by Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.
These five companies are all headquartered in the United States, yet they are multinationals that have an impact on promoting militarism around the world. In the case of Lockheed Martin, 96% of the company’s revenues came from the “defense” industry in 2021.2 Additionally, Lockheed Martin is part of the companies that run the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom,3 which designs, produces and maintains a nuclear arsenal.
In 2015, Lockheed Martin acquired Sikorsky, a company that manufactures helicopters and is present in Colombia. Black Hawk helicopters are one of the main products produced by Sikorsky and therefore Lockheed Martin. These helicopters, also known as UH-60, are produced by Sikorsky, and from the beginning they have had a military use. The helicopter’s name evokes the history and colonial reality of the U.S. military industry.
The name “Black Hawk” is the result of U.S. Army Regulation 70-28, which stipulates that helicopters must be named after indigenous nations and leaders of the territory colonized by the United States.5 This is the case of the “Black Hawk” helicopter, which is named after an indigenous leader of the Sauk Nation. Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, who was known as Black Hawk, led a group of Sauk and Fox warriors in the Black Hawk War of 1832. This was a response to the Anglo-American colonialists who sought to steal the lands of the indigenous nations. The use of this leader’s name for a helicopter by the U.S. military industry is an extension of the colonial militarist project.
Sirkosky, and Lockheed Martin, have continued the legacy of this project, as exemplified by the fact that the first combat use of the Black Hawk was in the U.S. invasion of the Caribbean island nation of Grenada in 1983. Since then, the helicopter has had an extensive operational history, often used in imperialist and colonial military operations.
Examples include its use by the Australian military since 1988 in its military incursions in Cambodia, Papua, New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor and Pakistan.
In 1989, Black Hawks were used in the U.S. invasion of Panama. The United States also used these helicopters in its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1991, as part of the war in Iraq, Black Hawks were used in the largest air assault mission in the history of the U.S. military, in which more than 300 helicopters were used.7
In 1994, Israel received 10 of these helicopters and put them to use for the first time in 1996 in the “Grapes of Wrath” operation. This operation was carried out in southern Lebanon and involved Israel’s explicit and intentional provocation of a humanitarian crisis. The Israeli state, in contravention of international law, threatened the civilian population with bombardment, ordering the evacuation of the entire civilian population, resulting in the displacement of more than 400,000 people8. According to Human Rights Watch, 154 civilians were killed in the operation following the bombardment of the area.9
Lockheed Martin in Colombia
Between 1988 and 2018, the Colombian Air Force and National Police acquired 103 Black Hawk helicopters.10 There are pilot training centers in Colombia (in Melgar, Tolima) and maintenance centers (at the Tolemaida air base, Nilo, Cundinamarca) for Black Hawk helicopters. Since 2018, these centers are also used by the armed forces of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico. Since they were first bought by the Colombian State, they have been used in a series of atrocities.
In 1988, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was used in the Santo Domingo massacre, where the Colombian Air Force massacred 17 people (11 adults and 6 minors) in the village of Santo Domingo in the department of Arauca, using a cluster grenade and strafing.11
In 2003, three Black Hawk helicopters were used in a mass arbitrary detention operation of more than 110 people, including public officials, in the department of Risaralda.12
On April 1st, 2005, the Anti-Narcotics Directorate of the National Police of Colombia, using five Black Hawk helicopters (among other aircraft), sprayed glyphosate on illicit crops in rural areas of several municipalities in the department of Boyacá, going against the policy of crop replacement which protects the livelihood of small farmers.13
In 2019, a Black Hawk helicopter launched rockets in northern Santander that landed 200 meters from peasant homes.14
During the 2021 National Strike, a Black Hawk helicopter landed over a Bogotá school to supply tear gas to the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (ESMAD).15
In Colombia there is also a modified version of the UH-60 helicopter, the AH-60, known as the Arpia. This is an more lethal version of the UH-60, because it has rocket launchers and machine guns.16 This version was created by the Colombian Air Force, Elbit Systemsand Sikorsky. This helicopter also has Spike LR and ER missiles, from the Israeli military company Rafael. These have been manufactured in Colombia since 1999,17 and by January 2021, the Colombian State will have 10 of these helicopters.18 Recently, there has been greater collaboration with the Israeli giant Elbit Systems, which has provided a vision system for the helicopter19.
In 2002, two Arpia helicopters participated in Operation Orion, the military operation in Medellin in which paramilitaries collaborated with the Colombian army to carry out illegal raids, mass arrests, extrajudicial executions of civilians and forced disappearances.20
In 2007, an Arpia helicopter indiscriminately strafed six peasants in a rural area of Norte de Santander.21
In 2009, an Arpia helicopter bombed a few meters away from 10 civilians in the department of Guaviare. This happened after these people were attacked with machine guns by Mobile Brigade No. 7, which resulted in the killing of 3 people and injuries to 2 of them.22
Among other Lockheed Martin weapons and products, Colombia also has the C-130 Hercules, a military transport aircraft. The Colombian State has 7 of these aircrafts, including three that were donated by the U.S. government in 2020 and 2021.23
Likewise, during the Expodefensa 2021 arms fair, held in the city of Bogota, Lockheed Martin offered the Colombian Navy the CMS-330 combat management system, which would expand the lethal capacity of this institution.25
Of particular concern is that the Colombian government is in the process of acquiring between 24 and 36 “F-16” war planes which are produced by Lockheed Martin26. These would replace the 23 Israeli Kfir planes currently used by the Colombian Air Force. Like in the case of other collaborations with the Israeli military industry already mentioned, the wings of the F-16 have been produced by Israel Aerospace Industries since the 1980s. The Colombian government justifies the purchase of these planes, which would cost 14 billion pesos, stating they would make up for a “strategic disadvantage” with Venezuela.27 In other words, the purchase of these planes seeks to deepen the militaristic approach of the State inside and outside its borders.
We oppose this purchase and invite you to take action against this and other purchases from Lockheed Martin. To that end, we call you to the global mobilization against Lockheed Martin that will take place on April 28th, during the company’s annual shareholder meeting. Let’s say #StopLockheedMartin, and oppose dirty deals – like the purchase of F-16 planes – that seek to create profits for a few, while creating death for many others.
The track record of Lockheed Martin and its products say it all: this is a company that brings with it death and a colonial and imperial legacy. Its collaborations with companies like its current subsidiary Sikorsky and Israeli military industry giants like Elbit Systems, Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries make it a company that profits more and more from the escalation of war in this and other territories. When the Colombian State purchases their products, such as the F-16 planes it intends to buy soon, it only increases its lethal capacity and its brutal repression of the people of this country. Let us show the annual general meeting of Lockheed Martin for what it is: a blood-soaked celebration.
5 This regulation is no longer in effect.
11 https://corteidh.or.cr/docs/casos/santodomingo/esap.pdf; https://www.justiciaypazcolombia.com/masacre-de-santo-domingo-2/
13 https://www.cinep.org.co/publicaciones/PDFS/20050601.nocheyniebla31.pdf; The Colombian Constitutional Court has ruled that the use of glyphosate causes harm to people and the environment, as well as economic impacts by going against crop substitution plans.
15 https://www.rcnradio.com/bogota/colegio-de-bosa-advirtio-que-usaron-sus-instalaciones-para-aterrizaje-de-helicoptero; ESMAD is the Colombian National Police squad that has been implicated in some of the worst acts of repression and human rights violations in the country, particularly during the 2021 National Strike.
20 https://www.justiciaypazcolombia.com/operacion-orion-3/; https://verdadabierta.com/se-hace-memoria-pero-falta-justicia-a-13-anos-de-la-operacion-orion/