I’ve been everywhere, man. I’ve been everywhere…
We’ve been flat out here at Shephard over the past few months, and if you’re in the defence game you will have likely seen either me or one of my colleagues hitting trade shows in Singapore, Orlando, Berlin, Los Angeles, Dubai, Doha, Nashville, Kuala Lumpur, Tampa, Cologne, and at least one or two others I can’t recall off the top of my head.
Not to mention doing the rounds locally here in the UK. If it happened and it was news, we were there – chasing lovely new bits of kit, monitoring the financial performance and programme announcements of the aerospace and defence
major leaguers, making sure we covered all the news, trials and tribulations of this ‘quirky little industry of ours’, to quote our dear leader.
For my part there were one or two definite highlights: covering Defense Service Asia (DSA) in Kuala Lumpur was an eye opener, as the whole thing was just so comically chaotic. The complex where the event was hosted was a rabbit warren of disparately sized rooms and corridors, and buildings linked by over-bridges, with no rhyme or reason to the lay out – at least to my eyes.
However, the show ran improbably smoothly, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which tended to crop up quite frequently during press conferences with regional authorities.
By some miracle I was able to find my way around DSA with relatively few issues and talk to some pretty interesting people. The Russians, who rebuffed my overtures early on in the show, eventually relented and agreed to talk to me, and I’m glad they did, as they were not shy about voicing their opinions on the politics of American defence manufacturers.
I had a good chat to companies and delegates from all over the world looking to solicit and cement trade relationships with regional industry, with Malaysia constantly touted as the next big growth opportunity. Whether this is true remains to be seen, but for sure the defence industry in general is taking America’s (perhaps pre-mature?) re-orientation to the Asia Pacific seriously, and indulging in some pre-emptive strategic shuffling.
By contrast, my next venture to the ILA Berlin Air Show revealed a predictably well organised, efficient, logically presented – if somewhat quiet – European defence industry gathering. ILA Berlin happened to follow hot on the heels of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea, effectively putting the military capabilities of any nation in close proximity to the Ukrainian crisis under the spotlight, or microscope, depending on your perspective.
The waking of the Great Bear, and the subsequent European disquiet, added a sheen of optimism to the show, asindustry players anticipated a flurry of defence spending by the Ukraine’s worried neighbours. While there were one or two interesting announcements, by and large this expectation went unrealised for a lot of attendees.
Up next is Eurosatory in Paris – and you can expect to see us there as well.