Protest to target Melbourne weapons manufacturer
Protest to target Melbourne weapons manufacturer)

Update: Protesters will rally again outside HTA’s factory in Campbellfield (Melbourne) on Friday 9 February at 11am—see details below. 250 protesters rallied outside the locked gates of the factory on the morning of 2 February after management closed the facility for the day. The factory was also closed by a smaller protest on 1 February.

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Every time an Israeli F-35 combat jet unleashes death and devastation on the people of Gaza, weapons manufacturers in Melbourne count the profits. F-35s have been described as “the world’s most advanced fighter jet”. Israel has a fleet of 39; its military has boasted of the F-35’s role in dropping 2,000 pound bombs on the people of Gaza. 

The supply chains of components for these killing machines, and the trail of profits from their manufacture and maintenance, leads to a series of sites around Australia. According to the Defence Department, F-35 contracts awarded to Australian companies have totalled more than $4 billion so far. 

Protesters from a range of activist groups will gather this Friday, 2 February, outside one of the choke points in this lucrative trade in death: a small but crucial factory in Campbellfield in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, operated by HTA (Heat Treatment Australia). 

The Defence Department states that HTA is “vital to the Australian supply chain for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter” through its high-tech heat treatments, which strengthen key components in these machines of war. And as the Defence Connect website explains, HTA is “the only thermal processing company in the world to be approved by Goodrich Landing Gear to provide vacuum processing with high-pressure gas quenching for F-35 landing gear components”.

HTA is far from the only Australian company contributing to every F-35. As Kellie Tranter wrote for the Declassified Australia website in November 2023:

“No bombs could be dropped on Gaza by an F-35 without parts manufactured for the F-35s by Melbourne company Rosebank Engineering (RUAG Australia). The company is the sole global producer of the F-35’s ‘uplock actuators’ that open and close the weapons bay doors to drop its payload.”

Rosebank’s website boasts of its role in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program:

“Rosebank Engineering has been manufacturing components for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter since the System, Design & Development phase of the program in 2004. Rosebank Engineering is a sole source supplier to UTC Aerospace Systems and provides over 150 components for the Landing Gear and Weapons Bay Systems on the aircraft.”

We don’t know how many of these 150 components are fed through HTA’s Campbellfield heat treatment factory. We don’t know how much money the company makes, though HTA notes that the F-35 program has underpinned the dramatic expansion of the company.

But we know that Lockheed Martin, the lead contractor manufacturing the F-35, had a bounce of 25 percent in its share price in the month following 7 October, and is still trading at 14 percent above its 6 October price. 

And of course, we know the price paid in Gaza.

There’s no way of telling exactly which of Israel’s fleet of F-15s, F-16s and F-35s dropped which bomb to kill which family in Gaza over the past 116 days. But we know from the Aviationist website that the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visited the Air Force’s F-35I fleet at Nevatim Air Base in November. He gloated publicly about the role of the F-35s in dropping 2,000-pound bombs on the people of Gaza: 

“We never did anything like this. With very heavy munitions, a very good connection between what the [ground] force needs and what the plane knows to give. This connection of air and land together, we always knew it was strong, we see now that it is much stronger than we knew”.

2,000-pound bombs are rarely used in modern warfare, according to an investigation published by CNN in late December. For instance, the US dropped only one of them during its operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which included 24,000 air strikes between 2014 and 2017, according to the US Department of Defense

But the “very heavy munitions” celebrated by the IDF chief of staff at the Nevatim F-35 base have been a regular feature of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. CNN identified at least 500 of the giant craters they create. 

In early December, Amnesty International published an account of the effect of these bombs. Amnesty interviewed Suleiman Salman al-Najjar, a 48-year-old man who owns a mechanic and car sales shop in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip. Mr Najjar was returning home from a routine hospital visit for a kidney problem on 10 October when he heard a massive explosion. He told Amnesty:

“I rushed home and saw a scene of utter destruction. I could not believe my eyes. Everybody was under the rubble. The house was completely pulverised. The bodies were reduced to shreds.

“Only the body of my son Nadim was recovered whole. My baby girl, Safa, we only found her hand ... Now, me and my two surviving sons live in a tent by the ruins of our home. Our lives have been destroyed in a moment. Our family has been destroyed. Something that was unthinkable is now our reality.”

Amnesty’s munitions experts retrieved parts of the bomb and concluded it most likely weighed 2,000 pounds—like those often carried by Israel’s F-35 jets. The bomb killed 21 members of the Najjar family, as well as three of their neighbours. 

Campbellfield and surrounding suburbs have a large migrant and Muslim population. Campaigners from Hume for Palestine, Victorian Socialists, and Free Palestine Melbourne have had an electrifying reception while building for Friday’s protest. Many locals are shocked to discover that a small factory in Campbellfield’s sprawling industrial zone is so closely tied to Israel’s slaughter. 

Victoria’s Labor government is keen to attract more business of this kind, signing a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli government December 2022 to further “defence industry” ties. This follows the government’s announcement in early 2021 that it had formed a “partnership” with Elbit Systems. Elbit is Israel’s biggest weapons manufacturer and arms dealer. On that occasion, Industry Minister Martin Pakula declared: “We’re proud to be supporting Elbit to grow its global footprint in Melbourne”.

Labor clearly views apartheid, endless war and genocide as profitable business opportunities.

Meanwhile, the unthinkable slaughter, which is now a daily reality in Gaza, continues. And Lockheed Martin and its contractors, including HTA, continue to make a killing out of their contribution to it. 

Next protest against weapons manufacturing company HTA

WHEN: Friday 9 February, 10am to 12 noon

WHERE: 43B Lara Road Campbellfield.

Protest endorsed by Victorian SocialistsHume for Palestine, Renegade Activists, Free Palestine Melbourne.

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