back to article BAE Systems faces 'debarment' from exporting US war-tech

US-centred but UK-headquartered arms globocorp BAE Systems may soon face serious restrictions on its operations imposed by the US government. The Financial Times reports today that the BAE Systems plc, the London-based umbrella corporation for BAE's worldwide operations, is "braced for the imposition of strict curbs" by the US …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    BAE = Billions Above Estimate

    Bribes and coverups.

    Type 45 Windows for Warships. I saw a documentary where they crew was ordered to "log out and then log back in again" as the system crashed upon exposure to the first battle exercise.

    Bribes and coverups.

    Nimrod - what can I say? At least the average coefficient-of-beauty of the world's military aircraft fleet has ticked upwards. Too bad for pots and pans headed for the world's kitchens...

    Did I mention bribes and coverups?

    1. GeorgeTuk

      Can you let me know what documentary that was?

      I would be interested to know as never heard this myself and worked on the team. Also never heard of a documentary team going out on sea trials.

  2. Ben Holmes

    Every cloud...

    On the bright side, if BAE are shedding British staff at a rate of knots, they'll no longer be able to strongarm the UK Govt into giving them vast sums of money for pointless military development projects that spiral wildly out of control in terms of costs and delivery times - all in the name of 'local jobs'. Whilst that's incredibly unlucky for the individuals concerned - and that is a sincere condolence to anyone involved - then maybe, just maybe, we might get someone competent in for any future MoD bids.

    I realise however, that this is unlikely.

    However, does this also mean that Lewis' dream of an RAF / RN / Army equipped with decent, reasonably cheap US equipment comes a step closer to reality? Here's hoping. I'm all for maintaining an independent development cycle for military hardware, but when that development leads to an aircraft that costs as much - and is as crippled - as the Eurofighter, then you have to question its worth.

    I for one, am OK with them going to leech off the US Govt for a while. This is basically a win - win for us.

    Did that sound a it ranty?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Was thinking along those lines..

      If there no longer allowed to make and sell bits of the Eurofighter, does this give us an easy out of having to buy a hundred of the wretched things to mothball?

    2. GeorgeTuk

      I concur...

      but don't forget the same people are just as easily dazzled by the US defence manufacturers, for example the census being done by Lockheed Martin.

    3. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Lewis' dream

      Might become a terrifying reality when the UK starts buying American kit - designed and built by BAe.

  3. Graham Marsden

    Great idea...

    Gods forbid that anyone should supply weapons to regimes like, oh, I don't know, Libya, for instance...


  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm sure there are ways around debarment.

    Brown envelopes comes to mind

  5. Desk Jockey


    Exciting news. A bit more significant than is let on by the article though.

    "in which BAE admitted conspiracy to violate US arms-export laws and paid a $400m fine," I think you will find they did a plea bargain to 'false accounting' or such-like. If they had actually admitted to the above quoted charge, senior BAE Executives would be heading to prison right now. ITAR related prison offences can mean a very long stretch in prison, one guy breaching ITAR got over 20 years.

    The implications of BAE not being able to export tech is actually quite huge for the UK. It means the UK will struggle to get US tech into a lot of its defence kit, from some of its rifles and night vision goggles all the way up to planes and helicopters. In fact, at the extreme end, if State really pushed the 'debar everything' button, the UK would probably have to pull out of Afghanistan. The irony if this happened would be hysterical, as well as the political stink as UK/US relations took a nose-dive.

    What this actually means, is that the UK will buy more from Europe and less from the US. I am willing to cheer BAE being beaten up like everyone else, but don't delude yourselves into thinking we will be buying more US tech as a consequence. This decision could actually cripple BAE's ability to be the UK MOD's prime contractor for a whole range of projects, whether this means UK defence procurement gets better or worse as a consequence is up for debate.

    Flame on!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      @Desk Jockey

      "The implications of BAE not being able to export tech is actually quite huge for the UK. "

      Given that the "tech" in question can include *training* and service manuals most of the kit they sell (even if built *outside* the US) could be both unusable and unserviceable.

      "This decision could actually cripple BAE's ability to be the UK MOD's prime contractor for a whole range of projects, "

      You make that sound like it's a *bad* thing

      I think breaking up this pair of co-dependent enablers of each other incompetence is *long* overdue.

      However as long as the CEO of BAe enjoys unfettered access to the PM's office I suspect they will "explain" that it's all ""Just a big misunderstanding old boy. Nothing for you to worry about, business as usual, when can we have the down payment on the carriers etc etc."

      But as Nicholas Cage in Lord of War observed You're not a proper arms dealer till you've sold guns for use against your *own* side.

  6. It wasnt me
    Thumb Down

    A minor correction to your article.

    "The State Department is in charge of implementing the USA's strict controls on the export of advanced military technology, and it is responsible for ensuring that firms involved in illegal practices should not be licenced to make such exports."

    Should have read:

    "The State department is in charge of making sure that all tech products fall under the ITAR restrictions. Regardless of their complexity. By making sure absolutely everything can be used to make weapons, the US can artificially control and manipulate iport / export regulations in ways that are otherwise illegal as defined by WTO rules."

    There, fixed it for you.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      ITAR, bugger all about arms control...

      ...and everything to do with restrictive practice and US protectionism.

      And believe me, its far wider than just exporting "guns" all sorts of things get smeared with ITAR crap making it impossible for non-US citizens to do those jobs.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      too right

      We were in the running to sell some electronics to the Far East, but it had some American designed components in it. Not one of those components could be regarded as 'Military' but be were suddenly informed that they were subject to ITAR review, so we could not continue the bid. It is of course a complete coincidence that the winning Bid was an American Company who were able to get an immediate clearance for selling their kit.

      It has now got so bad that my company will not use anything made by any American company, no matter how non-defence related it may be, just in case someday it may be declared ITAR. We are even being advised by the MOD not to include anything American for whatever we are developing for them because of the complete nightmare that ITAR has caused them.

      Just in case anyone reading these artivles think that ITAR is to do with selling Nulcear technology, or hand grenades, let me enlighten you. The regulations are written so loose and wide that virtually anthing can be swept up. I once had to join two bits of kit with an RS232 cable. Because one of those bits of kit was declared ITAR, the cable was declared ITAR. That is the level of idiocy that the americans have decended to.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        ITAR is quite mad.

        US companies in the aerospace business have estimated it has cost them $1Bn in sales. It's the reason Surrey Satellite built their own fuel tank for a satellite rather than have the tank (just the same as several 1000 others the same US company had made in the last several decades) stuck at the back of the queue for processing while they lost their launch opportunity.

        There has been *talk* about a special "fast track" for ITAR countries like UK (and no doubt Israel) but AFAIK the UK gets about the same treatment as North Korea by the State Dept.

        One of the changes in 1999 added *scientific* satellites being built in universities to ITAR.

        Most of this BS came from the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act ( Strom Thurmond being the 100 yr old South Carolina "Senior" senator first elected when Hitler was taking his seat in the Reich stag. Probably the reason why when US film makers want to show a *really* crooked, sexist and racist senior politician they give him a Southern accent).

        I'm still p***ed at the old dead fart because when at an American meeting I asked someone from the floor what the Isp of their rocket design was (*long* way from state of the art, not military) and they asked "Are there any foreigners in the room?"

        I don't hold it against them but I surely hold it against this PoS bill backed by someone who would have looked good as the guest of honor at a funeral in 1980.

  7. EvilGav 1

    What we lost . . .

    . . . in man-power to the US, was mostly the un-skilled or lower-skilled manufacturing, the bit that is cripplingly expensive to do in the UK.

    We still have almost the same number of boffins at BAe as before they started shipping jobs abroad.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Reasons for action?

    One could suggest that BAe main problem, is that it is not called Halliburton, and lacks major shareholders in the US political structure. (like senior whitehouse office holders)

    BAe may not be snow white in it's operations, but it looks like a saint next certain US companies.

    Personally I'm not convinced that this is anything other than disguised protectionism, and political posturing by US vote grubbers (sorry Politicians)


    When looking at this, think about the US political response to BP, given Halilburton role in the fiasco

  9. Bluenose
    Dead Vulture

    I wonder if the British Govt.

    Read the report and though, may be we should go and have a review to see if a)BAE has been flogging British knowledge and know-how on the sly to dodgy people and b)are they using British know-how and technology in the US and exposing it to third parties like they may have been doing with US technology? The answer of course if no because are Govt (irrespective of the party currently in power) are all wowed by the US and forget that the UK has some pretty good boffins who have come up with some excellent technologies over the years and that there is a value associated with those technologies.

    there are already rumours that people like Qinteq have flogged some of the family silver to boost their credibility in the US and the odds are that BAE would probably not be reluctant do so based on their propensity for facilitiation payments and oiling of wheels.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re .... the UK has some pretty good boffins who have come up with some excellent technologies

      ..... Bluenose Posted Monday 7th March 2011 13:58 GMT

      Well said, Sir or Madam, and some excellent boffinry which is beyond compare, and really scary and spooky and extremely expensive if you are made vulnerable by your own destructive defensive actions and programs.

      And such work is always a labour of LOVE in constant betatesting progress at the shadowy forefront ..... with its sensitive shade now provided by Covering Clouds ....... for Excellent Masterly Play in the Great Game with IT virtualised smoke and mirrors/cloaks and daggers to separate the men from the boys and their toys for the ladies and girls into the pleasures of joy.

      Let your fingers do the walking, and exercise your mind with a wander to wonder and ponder on this irregular and unconventional note ...........

      [blockquote]Hi, Dr Dugan,

      Are DARPA into CyberSpace Communications Command and Control for Remote Virtual Power Leverage in ........ well, done well is it IT Power and Media Control of Practically Everything, Virtually?

      "Additionally, Dr. [Regina E.] Dugan is the sole inventor on a patent for refueling satellites in orbit, and she has several additional provisional patents filed." ....

      Noah and Spencer, Hi,

      Do you know if that sole inventor patent for refueling satellites in orbit, is an operational neuroscience process with Information Technology? Or would that be more likely something DARPA requires, if they don't have it yet, although methinks IARPA rather than DARPA may be a more natural home for the discipline?

      I suppose though, that question is best answered, or avoided, with an email sent directly to Founder, President & CEO of Dugan Ventures.


      xxxxxxxxxx [/blockquote]

      Are you keeping up with developments, Lewis? Or is it still just as clear as dDutch to you?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @George Tuk

    George Tuk asked, "I would be interested to know as never heard this myself and worked on the team. Also never heard of a documentary team going out on sea trials."

    Demanding references is a bit lame in this day-and-age. I didn't take notes while relaxing in front of the TV; so I had to use Google to find you the reference.... perhaps you could have done yourself.

    '21st Century Destroyer' (*) on 'The History Channel' in North America (Y station MV).

    (* I think. The title sounds very familiar, and I've only seen one such documentary.)

    Promo text = "...The History Channel has unprecedented and exclusive access TO FILM THE ENTIRE PROCESS [emphasis added]. This film captures the thrills, challenges and achievements as the Type 45 goes from the drawing board to open seas. ..."

    During the ship's first full-up exercise, the Windows for Warships (I assume) command system crashed. During the simulated battle off the south coast of England, the officers were told to "log off and log back on again" (exact quote) after the system had been rebooted. The process required several minutes and appeared to confirm exactly what everyone had been warning about.


    1. Paul 117


      Yeah right AC, so software never crashes? Only Windows software?

      Stop trolling.

      I think the key phrases you used were "simulated" and "excercise".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SUSE for warships

      Just to let you know SUSE LINUX for warships casues us far more problems than windows XP embedded for warships. If you actually run windows with only a few 3rd party drivers (fully tested) and limited software tested properly tested, windows is actually very stable.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Let this be a lesson to you all...

    Allowing an entire industry (such as the defence industry) to be parcelled up into less than three home-grown companies is a recipe for some seriously hard kicks in the happy sack down the historical line...

    Racal, Marconi, Enfield, Webley & Scott, Vickers, Rolls Royce, Bristol, and so on, all somehow got sucked into the BAe empire - through government allowance, and outright political insanity.

    The result? Loss of jobs, less competition, more wasteful projects, more tax money vanishing down plugholes(can you say 22 quid light bulbs and hundred-quid bog seat lids?) and the export of BRITISH know-how to foreign forms - frankly, BAe is a yank firm now, and it's only the old school tie brigade that thinks otherwise.

    Isn't it about time the balance was redressed a bit back in OUR favour?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Racal didn't get sold to BAE

      Old Sir Ernest Harrison built and then spun off the bits of Racal (Vodafone, Chubb, Racal Telecom for example) with such skill that if you'd invested £1000 in Racal in 1961 it would have been worth over 10 million when he retired in the late 1990s.

      The Racal defence companies went to Thales (or Thomson-CSF as was) pretty much lock, stock and barrel IIRC.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        racal thales

        most of Racal is Thales another small bit is Northrop Grumman

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @Paul 117

    MIL-STD-498. Not a cheap process, but the end result is reliable software that shouldn't crash upon very first contact with the (simulated) enemy.

    One can claim that the system crash captured by the documentary film crew was 'just bad luck', 'just a coincidence', 'just happenstance', 'nothing to see here move along...' Such a claim would be very farfetched.

    Consider also that this sort of problem with Windows for Warships was predicted from the outset. File under 'Told ya so.'

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up


      Looked up MIL-STD-498.

      Looks a bit of a beast.

      Had it been used properly it should have at least gotten people *thinking* about the sort of stuff that happened *before* the software got on board.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      yeah, yeah...

      MIL-STD-498 and its consanguine bro' DO-178B should indeed be very efficient.

      Actually, most of the mandatory activities are often done as cheaply and fast as possible... leading to :

      - Badly-worded-and-confusing SRS

      - Reverse-engineered-from-code SDD

      - Minimalist STD

      - Problem-hiding STR (I already had *orders* NOT to raise some issues...)

      - SUM... What's this?

      Anonymous because I'm on this gravy train too...

  13. Seven_Spades

    Restore the Great into Britain

    Well Cameron want to support enterprise, well how about getting BAE to move lock stock and barrel back to the UK. Find out what BAE wants to do this and do it. Make sure the sam offer is available to other industries and get Britain manufacturing again.

    Business have move away for numerous reasons, indirect taxation ie employers NI, rates, energy costs here are higher than other arts of the world, too many employment rights. Fact is businesses vote with jobs and they have all moved abroad. This is Blairs legacy. The last government to understand business was the Thatcher Government, the Major government did nothing on that front.

    If Argentina attacked the Falklands today there is more than a 50% chance the USA would put an arms embargo on the UK. We have to have our own independent arms industry. If you don't believe me look at history, the British and French Governments were ordered out of Egypt by the US government (Some special relationship!) get out we were told or we will sell the pound and break your economy.

  14. Paul 135

    US Protectionism

    El Reg readers - stop believing all the typical nonsense that Lewis Page has written in all his previous articles - the man is a typical British serial whinger who likes to whinge about his own and sells his books doing so. His belief that "the grass is always greener" on the US side is BS.

    This is entirely about unscrupulous US Protectionism - making up some BS rules so that the US only looks after #1. If the UK government had any balls they'd take this up with the WTO. As another poster has suggested, I'm sure they could also use this (and some other stuff the US has done recently e.g. sharing details about UK nuke missile launchers) to tell the US where to go and get the hell out of Afghanistan.

  15. Paul 135

    We don't need no stinkin US tech!

    ... and to add to this, hopefully this will mean that BAE etc. will start to expand more in Europe and tell the US where to go. Despite what that nutter Lewis Page says, the more European tech we use, the more operational independence we shall have.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      More Euro Tech

      Do you mean like the Eurofighter or Tornado maybe?

      1. Paul 135

        yes I do

        Desipte what Page says, in the long term Eurofighter will be deemed a success in terms of cost, export potential, operational independence and a skilled domestic workforce. Much of the money spent on the project flows back to the government again in tax revenue due to much of the tech being produced domestically.

        This type of development could be expanded to other areas of the military. One that stands out would be a home-brewed Trident replacement. (even more so if there is any truth in stories like at

        1. Paul 135

          components too

          ...not to mention that we could re-source a lot of the electronic etc. components so that they all come from European companies that don't impose any of that restrictive protectionist BS on us (still a good few European semi companies out there).

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Our American Friends wouldnt be as far on with supersonic jets if it wasnt for us, in fact we gave them just about everything that got them started, perhaps we should pull a piece of paper out of our arses and claim ownsership of everything from assisted take off aircraft carriers to supersonic jets....lets throw in telecoms, RADAR/SONAR as well.... lets think...can we get away with the wheel? ok perhaps a bit too far, anyhow, my point is, we gave them a lot over the years and whilst they have a good edge (budget) on us now it wasnt always the case,

    ** our children grow up nowadays ;)

  17. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    ITAR and Europe

    ITAR does have some advantages. It effectively bans American companies from launching anything on Chinese or Russian rockets so Thales and Eurosat make a load of money building satellites that can be launched cheaply in China

  18. JaitcH

    New British uniforms made in China! IP is given away by the US, too

    A couple of years ago new style, high-tech, uniform contracts were awarded and ended up being manufactured in China. (See: < >) I guess the Chinese don't have an interest in green uniforms?

    Most of the 'leaked' IP in China has been released to them by provisions in manufacturing contracts, so who is to blame?

    A while back I was involved in Canada of some resource search equipment and a foreign entity wanted to buy some sets of equipment. This foreign entity was directed to a US company, who accepted the order, in turn placing an order with the company I then worked for.

    The equipment contained high-voltage triggers used in atomic weapons which weren't allowed to be exported outside of the US. So the Canadian company took these triggers, added some circuitry to them for other parts of the equipment, will all markings - even resistor values - removed and the encased the whole lot in an epoxy type of gue that could that the assembly could not be removed without destroying the components.

    This assembly was given an parts number and added to the parts list.

    As the completed geophysical set was exported to the US it didn't require any declarations. The US purchaser was aware of the situation but was more interested in money.

    A massive amount of forms were completed by the US entity which incorporated a parts list which declared the source of manufactured materials on it. The assembly, with the vital high-voltage switch, was simply described as a control module.

    After a month or so the US government approved the sale and the three parties were happy.

    So much for US ITARs.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Were I live at BAE is a 15 minute drive from LockeHeed Martin.

    Seriously I dont understand how p country like Great Britian let thier defency industry fall into such shambles. I would think that the politicans would a least see it as a pork barrell project .

    Hate or love America Britan should not be dependant on us or any pther country. I would hate to see the day that America would depend on another country. for protection. It's bad enough what we do for oil.

  20. arkhangelsk

    The West is reaping what it sowed...

    ... the strategic issue is not so much ITAR, but how did America gain so much dominance over everything which allows them almost unilateral control with things like ITAR. And the blunt truth is that the West as a whole chose to do it that way.

    A century ago a country as dominant as America would have every other nation forget their differences and ally up against it to maintain the power balance. After WWII every Western nation, sick of war, chose to hand dominance to America.

    So, the West cast the die and now it has to pay the piper. No point in complaining.

  21. SDCowley

    Boo to BAE. Yay to the US!

    I'm sick to death of reading Lewis' ridiculous articles about how terrible BAE Systems (not BAe, by the way) is and how the Americans are Gods in comparison.

    Reorganising paragraphs from the DoD and BAE statements doesn't make this article any more valid. These comments have been hacked to death and taken out of context.

    Any how, this isn't going to happen. The US threatens this action, in some way or other, almost every year; It's to placate the people who want to hear this for a few weeks and then it all disappears when they've had their bileous rants over the interwebs.

    Fail, because that's what I think everytime I read a Lewis article.

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    When you can't sell something to another country because someone *elses* government says you can't

    *Your* government is no longer in charge. They are.

    A "Eurofighter" that *cannot* be sold to *anyone* without the US governments permission is "Euro" in *name* only.

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