UK Shows the Way To Do Defense Business

 - July 19, 2013, 12:15 PM
Trade visitors throng the halls at the last DSEI show in London two years ago. (photo via CMS Strategic)

There may be no Farnborough Air Show this year, but two other defense shows in the UK this summer are boosting the country’s claim that it’s the best place to do business in Europe. The government-supported Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) event in London scheduled for September 9 through 13 has attracted more than 1,200 exhibitors (including 40 international pavilions), and the organizers expect nearly 30,000 visitors. The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford this weekend has again attracted major aerospace companies as hospitality hosts, even though the show’s main purpose is to display military aircraft to the general public.

Most major aerospace companies have a sizeable presence in the UK, and Lockheed Martin recently chose London as the joint headquarters (with Washington, D.C.) for its new international organization. “The way things are done here in defense is seen as a model,” said a Lockheed Martin UK spokesman. The corporation wants to increase international sales from 17 percent to 20 percent of total revenue. The UK is Lockheed Martin’s biggest overseas market.

Despite a declining defense budget, “few defense companies have walked away from the UK. We are good at what we do,” said Howard Wheeldon, director of policy for ADS, the trade body representing the UK’s aerospace, defense, security and space industry. “We have internationally respected scientific and university communities, and government is onside with industry,” he added. British defense exports rose 62 percent last year to reach £8.8 billion, he added. Wheeldon was addressing a technology briefing day organized by Raytheon, another global player that is significantly invested in the UK.

DSEI has traditionally been focused on land and naval systems, but the air domain has become increasingly important. The UK Royal Air Force is boosting its presence at the show. DSEI claims to be “the world’s largest land, sea and air biennial exhibition.” It is not open to the general public.

RIAT claims to be “the world’s largest military airshow,” but visiting aircraft numbers will be down this year, because sequestration has forced the U.S. Air Force–traditionally a big participant at RIAT–to cancel all airshow appearances.