Tag Archives: Russia

The World According to Shephard: Week 3

A game of charades?

This week the Geobukseon dives into the possible repercussions of constitutional change in Japan, suggesting that the country has never really been a pacifist nation. Tensions in the region have reignited debate regarding the nature of Japan’s self-defence forces, with many claiming it is a military force by another name.

Meanwhile, Gordon Arthur reports on the strengthening cooperation between Japanese paratroopers and US Army Green Berets who have conducted a mass airdrop exercise.

Japan

Qatar’s searches for new friends

Qatar’s Defence Minister has detailed plans to increase the country’s order of Hawk training aircraft from six to nine units. The announcement comes amid a rapid build-up of the Gulf-nation’s defence capabilities, in particular relating to its air force.

The minister also stressed that Doha is seeking to enhance and diversify its defence relationships with a wide range of ‘friendly’ nations. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent displays of Chinese and Turkish military equipment at Qatar’s National Day Parade.

Qatar

Helicopter orders fly in

The US Army has wasted little time in moving its purchase of 35 new UH-72 Lakota aircraft forward, it is even prepared to proceed without a competitive process. The announcement came one day after the army’s deadline for industry to respond to how they could meet the service’s requirement to purchase the H145M.

The Indian Army is facing the peculiar dilemma of having to stall deliveries of HAL’s Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) due to the unavailability of spares for the fleet already in service. There are more ALH aircraft on the production line than the army is willing to take as maintenance of the existing fleet remains a key concern.

India HAL heli

Indonesia’s military has also been receiving new aircraft, recently accepting two Airbus Helicopters AS565 MBe Panthers, three armed H125M Fennecs and a CN-235-220 aircraft. The Panthers, part of a November 2014 contract for 11 aircraft for the Indonesian Navy, are configured for anti-submarine warfare. Further deliveries of AS565s are expected in early 2018.

Finally, the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) has added 14 newly-built Ka-52 attack helicopters to its fleet. The RuASF now has a fleet of over 100 Ka-52s operated by its army aviation branch. The Russian MoD also expects to receive two enhanced Mi-28NM attack helicopters by the end of this year.

Heli2

Nightwarden sale looms

Textron is confident that the first sale of its Nightwarden UAV is on the horizon. Beth Maundrill reports that the first deal is likely to be an international sale and it is understood this would be a completely new customer for the company. It is also possible that Sweden may select the Nightwarden as part of a UAS upgrade.

Nightwarden

The future is here: quantum computing, AI and robotics

US Army leaders are seeking ways to capitalise on advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. The army’s top four-star general has warned that the military must address the ‘fundamental change in the character of war’. To this end, the service is working to develop new weapons systems to meet challenges posed by near-peer and peer threats such as Russia and China.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency and its industrial partners are planning to launch two quantum key distribution satellites at the beginning of next decade to deliver commercial services to private and governmental entities. Quantum cryptography, which relies on encrypting data into the quantum states of particles is believed to be inherently unbreakable.

 

 

 

 

 

Defence spending: the boom times are back

Spending in the military world may once again be on the uptick after five consecutive years of decline according to a new report by SIPRI.

Over the past few years we’ve all heard the defence industry rumblings about sequestration, budget squeezes and cost efficiency but it seems that these terms might be in the past, for now.

You only have to look at some of the ongoing regional tensions to guess why defence spending might be increasing, that accompanied with various major national weapons programmes and ongoing military operations.

Recently, there have been reports of the US Military conducting operations in almost every African nation. Tensions in Eastern Europe have led to nations neighbouring Russia to increase their military capabilities and in Asia tensions over the South China Sea and North Korean aggression continues to help spur on defence spending.

Specifically SIPRI looks at the top 100 arms-producing companies from 2016 with sales totalling $374.8 billion for the year.

In line with increased spending the report found that arms sales by US-based companies in the top 100 rose by 4% in 2016 to $217.2 billion.

With a belligerent neighbour to the north, South Korean companies in the Top 100 increased their arms sales by 20.6% to $8.4 billion in 2016.

Moreover, the Ukraine, with its ongoing Russia issues, saw its national defence developer, Ukroboronprom, increase arms sales by 25.1% in 2016. This is primarily a result of high local demand as a result of conflict in the east of the country.

As for the companies themselves, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, all for the US, come in the top three. Followed by the UK’s BAE Systems at four and Northrop Grumman in at number five.

Lockheed Martin increased its arms sales by 10.7% in 2016, reaching $40.8 billion, according to the report. Notably, the company is lead in one of the largest international programmes, the F-35 stealth fighter, which has seen increased order and the company’s acquisition of Sikorsky has helped bolster its profits.

With Trump in the Whitehouse promising to increase defence spending, amid all the other mentioned global issues, I think defence spending has truly taken a turn and for now spending will only continue to increase.

The World According to Shephard: Week 44

NATO SOF prepare for battle

NATO special operations forces have taken part in an exercise across eastern Europe  involving scenarios loosely based on recent Russian incursions into Ukraine. The exercise was designed to enable NATO and non-NATO entity special forces to counter an invasion by an enemy force as well as ‘diversionary’ forces.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) hosted its ThunderDrone Prototype Rodeo, the culmination of the first in a series of rapid prototyping events that began in September. The results are expected to go beyond the physical drone with its mechanical features, autonomy, swarming and machine learning all being explored.

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Swarms of unmanned requirements

The Australian Army is also enhancing its aerial unmanned capabilities with the procurement of FLIR Systems’ PD-100 Black Hornet 2 nano-UAVs. The deal will increase the Army’s Black Hornet fleet to over 150 providing enough to equip every army combat team at the platoon and troop level with an organic reconnaissance capability.

The US Navy’s requirement for an unmanned Carrier-Based Aerial-Refuelling System has hit a bump in the road after Northrop Grumman withdrew from the MQ-25 Stingray programme following changes to the programme requirements. There is a risk that further changes could see other competitors to follow suit.

Boeing_MQ-25_Sunset_Carrier

Meanwhile in Israel the country’s first commercialised AUV, the HydroCamel II has completed over 250 hours of sea trials in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. According to the system’s developers at Ben-Gurion University, the AUV’s autonomy and manoeuvrability capabilities set it apart from its competitors.

Watching the ships roll in

Above sea the Ukrainian coast guard is bolstering its fleet by purchasing up to 25 new high-speed patrol boats. The acquisition is part of Ukraine’s strategy for maritime security at each seaport to be ensured by a squadron of boats including unmanned patrol boats, a patrol attack boat, a high-speed interceptor, a coast guard boat and a new trimaran.

However in the UK the Royal Navy found itself in hot water this week after the National Audit Office published its investigation into equipment cannibalisation in the navy. The report found that between April 2012 and March 2017 there was a 49% increase in the practice with 60% of instances occurring between 2016 and 2017.

Picture are, on the left RFA GOLD ROVER, and on her right HMS LANCASTER sailing together on Atlantic Patrol Task (South) duties.

In Poland it has emerged that the Polish Navy may be forced to decommission its only Kilo-class submarine, ORP Orzel after a fire broke out on the boat. The fire is believed to have begun while crew members were discharging the submarine’s batteries while moored in the north of the country.

The digital battlespace

Moving into the digital world where the defence industry may be on the brink of a revolution as blockchain service providers  report increasing levels of interest from the industry. While the exact nature and extent of the impact blockchain will have remains uncertain, it is clear that this technology is here to stay.

Meanwhile Thales is in the process of analysing logged data from the recent Formidable Shield ballistic missile defence exercise to see if modifications made to its SMART-L Multi Mission radar can further enhance the technology. During the exercise the radar was able to detect the missile from a distance of 1,500km.

Thales

In the race to advance electronic warfare capabilities the US is expediting efforts to field technology into theatre that enables critical vehicle systems to remain functional in GPS-denied environments. GPS signals are increasingly vulnerable to jamming or spoofing by adversaries such as Russia who are actively deploying advanced EW capabilities.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 43

Pick of the week

While all eyes have been fixed upon North Korea, Uldduz Larki looks into NATO’s decision to host its most recent ballistic missile defence exercise in the Atlantic theatre, a sign that Russian deterrence remains a strategic priority. Read more of Uldduz’s report on the alliance’s inaugural Formidable Shield exercise here.

The bumpy road to agreement

After a series of lengthy pauses in the development of Germany and Israel’s submarine programme, the two nations moved a step closer to agreeing the purchase of three new submarines.

The vessels, which will be supplied by TKMS will replace Israel’s three Dolphin-class diesel electric submarines. Germany’s TKMS is also hopeful of future sales within Europe as the country has agreed to partner with Norway and has received similar interest from Italy.

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Meanwhile details are emerging about the Franco-British collaboration on a Future Combat Air System as the programme readies for the transition from planning to development.

Alongside work on the Anglo-French unmanned combat demonstrator is an investigation of open-system mission architecture. The latest announcement means that high-level concepts are now in the process of being turned into detailed requirement sets.

Elsewhere, Scott Gourley and Richard Thomas were at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vagas this week. Find all of the latest news from the show floor online

Finally, Boeing has reaffirmed its commitment to the UK despite souring relations with the government following the US Department of Commerce’s decision to place a preliminary 219% trade tariff on Bombardier. In a conversation with Shephard a Boeing spokesperson was keen to downplay any tension between the two parties following a number of attacks on the company from UK politicians.

Maritime insecurity

The future of the UK’s amphibious capabilities looks increasingly uncertain as the defence minister suggested it may no longer be a strategic priority.

Speaking at a meeting of the UK’s defence committee, Michael Fallon denied that the MoD had entered into conversations with Brazil and Chile over a potential sale of the HMS Albion and Bulwark which would put UK amphibious capabilities in jeopardy. MPs voiced their concerns that the MoD’s budget cuts are placing the UK’s security at risk.

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Saab’s Q3 results indicate the Swedish company expects to gain from increasing submarine activity in Europe and Asia. Reporting a 10% growth in sales over the first six months of 2017, the company is reaping the rewards of rising European and international defence spending.

Russia continues to bolster its muscle on the sea’s surface, ordering four Project 21980 Granchanok patrol boats. The main use of the boats will be to provide security to the Kerch Strait Bridge, currently under construction, which will eventually connect Crimea with mainland Russia.

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New-generation land warfare has arrived

Russia’s military investment are not just ocean bound as it appears Russian Land Forces units will be trialling the new-generation assault rifles of Kalashnikov dubbed AK-12 and AK-15. The new assault rifles have undergone testing within the frame of the Ratnik future soldier programme which will deliver new-generation high performance personal equipment to a range of Russian forces.

Following a significant boost to its defence budget, Romania continues to invest in modernising its land forces and has signed a MoI for the licenced manufacture of the Piranha IFV, a de facto act of selection of the new-generation wheeled IFV. Talks will take place on the firm delivery contract for an order of 227 Piranha Vs with an 8×8 wheel drive formula.

Piranha_GDELS_Romania

Helicopters bought and sold

Remaining in Eastern Europe, the Czech Air Force is expected to receive 12 Bell Helicopter UH-1Y Venoms from the US DoD as part of a $575 million FMS deal. The aircraft are to be reserved for domestic service missions. The announcement suggests the current stock of Mi-8/17s and Mi-24/35s will most likely be retired.

This week Gordon Arthur reported that US Army Apaches stationed in South Korea will hook up with the General Atomics Grey Eagle MALE UAVs over the coming years, as well as boost their cooperation with the new Apaches of the Republic of Korea Army. Read more about Gordon’s visit to Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek here.

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While attention turns to Future Vertical Lift as the US Army’s next-generation of aircraft, the AH-64 Apache remains a key platform to the service’s fleet and remains integral to Boeing’s future international sales. With a prospective sale of six Apaches to the Indian Army in the works, the AH-64E is projected to remain in service until at least 2016.

 

 

 

Overmatch under threat?

As militaries continue to field increasingly sophisticated equipment, and digitisation across the battlespace becomes the norm, it’s easy to overlook the innovations still taking place in the fundamental – and sometimes basic – technologies of warfare, which do not venture into the realm of zeros and ones.

This is particularly the case for small arms ammunition, which despite being around for centuries and a core requirement for troops – along with food and water – is still subject to continual engineering developments that aim to increase lethality, while also decreasing the burden for the soldier in terms of weight and load.

The 5.56mm cartridge has been the standard option for small arms calibres for several decades since its introduction by the US with the M16 rifle in the 1960s and its consequent standardisation across NATO. However, recent conflicts have exposed shortfalls with the round.

Ammo US 2

Fit for purpose?

While the ammunition does provide several advantages, including a high muzzle velocity and low weight – allowing troops to carry significantly more rounds than if equipped with heavier 7.62mm cartridges – many have questioned whether 5.56mm is really the optimum choice for NATO armies today especially as near-peer armies field newer-generation body-worn armour, which includes ceramic strike plates, and as engagement ranges increase beyond the effective range of 5.56mm. Together, that means that the round no longer has the stopping power desired to effectively neutralise enemy combatants.

Of course, this worry is not new and has been the subject of many debates and scientific studies, not least when the ammunition was moving towards NATO standardisation. However, with the reasons mentioned above, many now consider the 5.56mm as potentially obsolete, meaning that squads have ultimately lost an all-important overmatch capability.

The US Army is leading the way when it comes to finding alternative solutions, including new calibres and lighter weight technologies, which is explored in more depth in the Oct/Nov issue of Land Warfare International.

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The service has expressed an interest in a new Interim Combat Service Rifle, with solicitations stating that it will be chambered in 7.62mm, rather than 5.56mm. Nevertheless, there are still questions concerning weight and the efficacy of this more powerful ammunition against modern ceramic armour.

If there is an eventual switchover to 7.62mm, or even an intermediate calibre such as 6.5mm, by the US Army, it would conclude an almost 50-year relationship with the 5.56mm round that began with the fielding of the M16.

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Getting active

Active protection systems are another hot topic in the land warfare domain. In the future, this could supplement existing armour technologies – both active and passive – and provide an extra layer of protection to vehicles in order to increase survivability.

APS technologies can sense incoming threats and automatically dispense a countermeasure, which in a ‘hard-kill’ configuration comprises an explosive projectile fired from the host vehicle, destroying a missile before impact. The equipment has already been fielded by the Israelis and is likely to be in service with the Russian and Chinese armies in the very near future.

TIGERCOMP XI

Much like the ammunition debate, there’s a worry in some circles that near-peer adversaries (Russia and China) could steal a march on the US in this domain, meaning that the US Army loses another aspect of its overmatch capabilities. APS could reduce the effectiveness of anti-tank weapons including shoulder-fired weapons, as well as new-generation tank munitions being fielded.

In an attempt to catch up, the US Army has tested several APS technologies this year, including the now-famous Trophy system from Israel, and there’s a possibility that the service could announce the purchase of APS equipment for fielding very soon. Shephard understands that fielding APS remains a key priority for service chiefs and recent testing has only served to strengthen that stance.

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Yet even if the US Army decide to invest in APS, there will still be challenges when it comes to full integration with vehicle mission systems, which is a concern for all armies today as platforms become more digitised.

Ammunition and APS occupy two ends of the technology spectrum, one decades-old technology and the other a new and highly advanced system. However, both flag up areas where Western technological and tactical advantage is slowly eroding, and this doesn’t stop at APS and ammunition. There are a whole host of technologies where this is the case, demonstrating that Western overmatch can no longer be taken for granted.

To read the latest Oct/Nov edition of Land Warfare International, download our app from Google Play Store or Apple iTunes. You can also read the latest online land warfare news here

The world according to Shephard: Week 41

Shephard’s AUSA team has had a fantastic week in Washington DC, reporting on all the latest military technology, innovations, conferences and much more. Find all Shephard’s AUSA coverage here.

Uncertain times

It was a ballistic start to the week as the US announced it had approved a potential sale of THAAD systems and support services worth $15 billion to Saudi Arabia. The region is no stranger to instability and political uncertainty but with civil wars in Yemen and Syria raging on, a diplomatic rift between Gulf nations and an increasingly bellicose Iran, Saudi Arabia is taking no chances.

The sale would boost Saudi Arabia’s missile defence capabilities and emerges at the same time as the country seeks to close a deal with Russia for the delivery of the S-400 (SA-21 Growler) long range air and missile defence system as part of a wider $3 billion arms package.

THAAD-Launch-Lockheed_Martin

Meanwhile, the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula are starting to stir concerns among members of UK Parliament, who this week questioned leading academics on what role the UK could play in the crisis. Speaking at the House of Commons Defence Committee, Nicholas Kitchen, LSE, offered some enlightening parallels with the Vietnam War.

Looking to the east, where European nations continue to formulate their response to Russia’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric and activities. Romania’s approach has been to significantly increase its defence budget establish a Special Operations Command, part of a wider effort to enable Romanian SOF to respond more rapidly to situations emerging from the ‘frozen conflict’ in eastern Europe.

Romanian forces, public 'Open Gates' to US Allies

The highs and lows of autonomous technology  

NAVSEA has had a change of heart regarding its Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic Systems (AEODRS) programme, cancelling solicitations for Increments 2 and 3 sighting changing requirements and budget restraints.

In a speech at the RAeS, president of Hélicoptères Guimbal, Bruno Guimbal made his opinion of the likes of Uber and Airbus’ unmanned helicopter taxi ventures very clear, describing them as ‘purely marketing and promotion’.

Instead, he believes the VSR700, derived from his company’s Cabri G2, could well be the first certified autonomous light helicopter.

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India’s Central Reserve Police Force has issued an expression of interest and RfPs for 150 mini-UAVs and 300 micro-UAVs on an urgent basis to be used for surveillance, reconnaissance and detection as Indian police forces tackle border incursions and a home-grown insurgency.

The peacekeepers’ new Guardian

Malaysian peacekeepers in Lebanon will see their fleet of 46 4×4 Condor APCs replaced with IAG Guardian APCs. Nine Guardian APCs will arrive in Lebanon in mid-December and be operational by the new year in the first step towards replacing the entire Condor APC fleet in Lebanon.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Army publicly displayed a prototype of the Kaplan medium tank for the first time at the 72nd anniversary parade of the armed forces. The medium tank is being developed under a joint venture between Turkey’s FNSS and Indonesia’s state-owned PT Pindad.

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OPVs, LSVs and LCS

Frigates and OPVs took centre stage at the Pacific International Maritime Exposition in Sydney last week, with Project Sea 5000 and Sea 1180 shortlisted to three contenders each. The three frigate contenders, BAE systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship, Fincantieri FREMM-A and Navantia F-5000, each presented their designs during a conference at the event.

Lockheed Martin and Austal USA have been awarded contract modifications to build additional littoral combat ships (LCS) for the US Navy. Both contracts are valued according to the congressional cost cap of $584 million per ship; however, the specific award amount has not yet been made public.

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And in Honduras the logistics support vessel (BAL-C) FNH-1611 Gracias a Dios built for the Honduran Naval Force was launched. The vessel is based on the Amphibious Landing Vessel designed and built for the Colombian Navy and was constructed in just ten months.

A fake news radar?

Reports of an apparent breakthrough in anti-stealth radar technology in Chinese-language media in Hong Kong and China turn out to be no more than a work of fiction. Wendell Minnick looked into the reports and found that the new ‘terahertz radar’ is probably not quite what it seems.

 

The world according to Shephard: Week 36

This week Grant Turnbull and Richard Thomas have been in Poland for MSPO. You can read all the latest news from the event here

Helicopter orders fly in

MD Helicopters was awarded a huge $1.38 billion contract for 150 MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters. The initial 30 are bound for Afghanistan to boost the air force’s current fleet of 27 Cayuse Warriors. This comes as the Afghan Air Force, under guidance and funding from the US DoD, is undergoing a transition from Russian-built helicopters to US-manufactured aircraft.

Another significant helicopter deal this week was received by HAL for 41 Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), primarily destined for the Indian Army. The deal is worth $951 million and includes 18 Dhruv-WSI armed variants. However, the Dhruv has suffered a number of crashes in recent months, the latest occurring on the 5 September.

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On the blog, Helen Haxell provides some insight into the recent return to strength of the civil helicopter sector. She takes a look at the impressive recovery of platforms such as the H225 and the Bell 525 Relentless, as well as discussing the new technology OEMs have been experimenting with.

The tanks roll in

Russia is continuing to invest in land modernisation as the Russian MoD inked several high value contracts for new or upgraded equipment in late August, report Alex Mladenov and Krassimir Grozev in Sofia. Twenty-three contracts were signed with as many as 17 Russian defence companies receiving new orders worth an estimated $2.9 billion. The biggest share of new orders was given to main battle tank (MBT) manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, for the delivery of newly-built T-90M MBTs.

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Meanwhile, the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force (JGDF) has been showing off its land capabilities at the Fuji Firepower demonstration. The JGDF performed a mobility demonstration of one of its new BAE Systems AAV7A1 amphibious assault vehicles for the first time.

Also on show was a prototype of the new Type 16 Manoeuvre Combat Vehicle (16MCV). The Ministry of Defence is procuring 99 vehicles by March 2019 with the aim of deploying the vehicle in rapid deployment regiments by March 2018.

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US Special Forces out and about

The Science and Technology Directorate at US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has identified future SOF C4 needs. It’s vision is ‘to discover, enable and transition technologies to provide asymmetric advantage for Special Operations Forces (SOF).’ Specific technology areas of interest have been identified in an effort to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Read more about SOF’s ambitions here.

In the Philippines, US SOF forces have been assisting the Philippine military in their battle against Islamist insurgents in Marawi. Gordon Arthur reports that the US closure of Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines in 2015 appears to have been premature in light of the vicious months-long fighting against the Maute separatists who are linked with ISIS.

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China acts, ASEAN talks

Staying in the region, an agreement was reached in August for a ‘framework’ Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea  during the 7th East Asian Summit Foreign Minsters’ Meeting. Described by Wendell Minnick as lacking fortitude, the COC is a code for state behaviour pending the settlement of disputes over sovereignty of land features and the delimitation of maritime zones. He added commented that, ‘all ASEAN and China did was reiterate general principles that they had already agreed to 15 years ago.’

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In the meantime China’s naval expansion continues as the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its largest naval supply ship to date. The Type 901 fast supply ship has a displacement of approximately 45,000t. Gordon said that ‘as the PLAN ventures further afield, the navy will require more capable and larger numbers of such auxiliary vessels.’

Greater clarity has also begun to emerge about the radical restructuring of China’s airborne air force. The airborne formation is a rapid reaction unit held in readiness for expeditionary or mobile tasks within China and increasingly for overseas contingencies. The restructuring is part of an effort to improve manoeuvring capability and extend their reach to ‘destinations in every theatre.’

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Pre-DSEI highlights

Let the DSEI madness commence – take a look at what to look forward to at DSEI next week.

Shephard’s full show coverage throughout the week is available here.

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