20 Dec 05. 2005 represents 25 years in the business for me and a good time to reflect on the changes in the industry since then. I joined SMC Engineering in 1980 as Military Sales and Marketing Manager for the 6×6 range of Land-Rovers, the 125’, 138’ and the chassis for the Hotspur range. During that time I established the contacts in the systems side of the business that unwittingly formed the knowledge base for BATTLESPACE. One particular project, BAE’s Laserfire system, that was in effect a laser guided Rapier on a wheeled chassis proved to be the pathfinder system that evolved into such systems as LIMAWS and Starstreak. Laserfire, designed by Spike Milligan, (no relation) failed due to two major factors, weight and internal strife. The towed Rapier teams saw a threat to their market and weight, always the perennial problem for such system mean t that our 6×6 chassis proved too light and the system was transferred to a Bedford thus all the mobility was lost! Thus it is a tribute to INSYS and Lockheed Martin that they have engineered MLRS into the LIMAWS concept at the same time as keeping weight down.
During the time at SMC I also experienced my first encounter with City analysts. Hotspur were desperately short of funds due to the profligacy of the Davies Brothers so they decided to buy the SMC 6×6 design as a means of getting a capital injection. Once Venturelink raised in excess of £250000, making Peter Jones of SMC rich in his own right, I went to Hotspur. I was told on Day 1 that I had to sell 1300 vehicles in a year. When I said that was impossible, I was told, “That’s what we told the City.” Not surprisingly two years later the firm went into receivership. It also formed the template of the nirvana quest by firms such as Dosco, Stonefield, AutomotiveTechnik, Supacat and HMT to crack the elusive multi-billion pound light vehicle market. Automotive Technik called the market dead right by selling out to Stewart & Stevenson whilst HMT and Supacat hung on for nirvana to arrive, turning down lucrative deals in the hope of becoming the HMMV replacement in spite of witches warnings from a huge swathe of industry, including myself. The Hotspur experience, coupled to that with TANS a solar panel company led me to research the information on defence reaching the City. Interestingly enough Peter Jones invested all his money in property, not the defence industry, and became very rich in the process. Had he done the latter, it is likely that he would have blown it all on dead end R&D projects.
Thus in 1981 I joined Defence Magazine as their salesman on Defence Africa and Defence Latin America, at the same time as writing on military vehicles and running Owners, the racing publication! It became rapidly clear, particularly when the ubiquitous Paul Michael of ‘Company Car’ fame took over after Argus Press purchased the publication that I was not suited to Ad sales! I told Paul that he needed to promote Defence to compete with Jane’s and get into the City. He declined and I se off on my own.
D.I.D.S. Defence Information Data Services was established in 1984 following an analysts briefing to Henderson Crosthwaite. The sharp decline in defence shares in 1983 signalled that the part was over and that all information was coming in the form of hyped advertorials. At D.I.D.S. we won our spurs on a feature on United Scientific Holdings. I had discussions with the Stock Market in 1985 to send the information electronically via the TOPIC system, thus paving the research into BATTLESPACE Update before the internet was dreamt of!
In 1985 Pearson Longman’s Crown Eagle subsidiary bought the title to establish itslef as a bidder for the MoD Contracts Bulletin, which it won in 1986.
I stayed on until 1986 and John Reed continued as Editor right through until 2003 after Jane’s bought the Publication, now renamed Jane’s Defence Industry. John and I formed a great combination for in-depth research on issues in the industry and John in p