The middle of July 2022 saw two of the hottest days ever seen in Britain. Instead of a new resolve to tackle climate change, we were instead greeted by images of the outgoing Prime Minister taking a joyride in a Eurofighter Typhoon warplane. This, as part of the promotion of weapons sales at Farnborough arms fair.
“Farnborough International Airshow” is a gigantic aviation-related arms fair that takes place every two years in the Hampshire town. While it does include civil aviation and space, much of the funding and exhibition space comes from arms companies. Warplanes, helicopters, missiles are all prominently on show.
Ordinarily the skies in the area are filled with the roar of private jets taking off from the local airport, but in the run up to the fair, these are replaced by the thunder of large bombers, fighter jets, military helicopters, from exhibitors like Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Leonardo. The roads, busy at the best of times, become grid locked as BMWs, Audis and Mercedes carrying arms dealers to the show flood into town.
Local people have had enough, and decided to organise protests. Julia from Greater Rushmoor Action for Peace, who lives about a mile from the fair said, “This is not what we want for our area. That’s why we’re here telling these international arms companies that they are not welcome here, or anywhere else. And it is hard to see how an air show is compatible to the Council declaring a “climate emergency” ”
They were joined by local Quakers, Peace Pledge Union, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and London CAAT members among others.
Lewis Backon from PSC said, “The return of the arms fair means that Farnborough will play host to a range of companies supplying weapons and military technology used by Israel in brutal armed violence against Palestinians. It is shameful that the fair is taking place, and it is important that it is being met with protest. Instead of facilitating such events, the UK Government should implement an immediate two-way arms embargo on Israel, as one step towards ending its decades long complicity in Israeli apartheid.” Drone maker Elbit Systems and missile maker Rafael were exhibiting at the fair this year.
In baking temperatures, protesters greeted arriving delegates with leaflets and banners. Members of the Raised Voices choir made sure the protest could be heard inside the fair. Speakers connected the weapons on sale in the fair to war and oppression in Yemen and Palestine. Especially moving was hearing from Aya Alghazzawi, Gaza Strip coordinator for the BDS National Committee, via a recorded message of support:
It is high time all arms fairs were brought to an end, it is shameful that they keep happening. We need real solutions to the problems of climate and poverty: not joyrides in fighter jets and traffic jams filled with arms dealers.
More on the role of UK arms used in Yemen since the start of the war in 2015, including the weapons made by BAE Systems and Raytheon used in the conflict
Details of Israel’s arms industry and its links to the UK, including further information about Elbit Systems and Rafael, which are major suppliers to the Israeli military
Lockheed Martin is a supplier of weapons to countries around the world, including the controversial F35 aircraft. In April, there was a global mobilisation from campaigners in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific.
Rushmoor Borough Council (whose area covers Farnborough) have declared a climate emergency in June 2019.