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By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE spoke to Tim Johnson, Assistant Director, Middle East of UKTI Defence & Security Organisation at SOFEX in Jordan

“Why has UKTI decided to put a great effort into exhibiting at SOFEX this year?”

“SOFEX is the best Special Forces Show in the world with a clear focus on the defence and security issues facing the region. We have brought 30 firms this year covering every technology from vehicles thru satcom and systems to weapons. Unlike other trade Organisations we staff our stand with trained military personnel who are briefed to discuss the technology on display. The cost is £1000, which covers shipping and Stand build, there are grants available for other factors such as travel and hotels. The Company makes huge savings as it does not have to send out staff to man the stand. This system worked very well for the recent Pakistan Show where we had a similar number of exhibitors.”

“Do you see the Middle East as a key growth for U.K. exports?”

“The Middle East is the U.K. largest market for defence and security products, where we have an estimated 20% market share. In 2009 our defence exports totalled £4.5 billion equating to a 17% world market share. We see the U.S. and France as our biggest competitors.”

“Which sector shows the greatest growth?”

“Whilst the U.K. has traditionally sold aerospace products to the area for several years from Hawker Hunters and Jet Provosts in the sixties to Tornado and Hawk in the eighties and Typhoon in the nineties, we see a number of countries seeking our support for technologies such as UAVs and border protection products. We see security, and Homeland Security in particular, as a huge growth area with an estimated global market forecast to grow to $180 billion in 2009-10 to a staggering $400 billion in 201014. We often work with other countries in consortia to provide these advanced systems. A good example is the recent win by Northrop Grumman UK in Brunei. The system which they are currently installing covers defence and security for all areas from border protection, logging, water monitoring, tactical communications and maritime protection. It is thus essential that these systems are interoperable with COTS products. Ports and infrastructure protection is an area of particular interest, particularly with the number of railways being built in the Region, in Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The rapid growth of nuclear power plants has its own security issues which have to be addressed in the current climate. Governments in the area see the U.K. as a safe and reliable partner with the ability to share information on a safe and speedy basis.”

“What other key areas do you see?”

“Vehicles and maritime systems are another growth area. Given the large distances in the Middle East, vehicles have to be interoperable and talk to each other from a central control unit. This unit has to decide in almost real time the level of the threat and dispatch the right response, be in police, paramilitary or military. In marine systems, we see growth in the smaller vessels such as Offshore Patrol Boats and fast interceptors for drug interdiction and refugee monitoring. The U.K. has a particular expertise in this area with the Royal nay’s River Class OPVs and the Coastguard and Police vessel.”

“There has been a lot in the news that although a key coalition Partner, the U.K. has lost out in the drive to rebuild the Iraqi Armed Forces?”

“No, Iraq is in the process of rebuilding its armed forces and is spreading the requirements to a number of countries and looking to build bi-lateral relationships. The news about the BAE Hawk being considered is very positive and we are looking at other opportunities.”

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