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15 Sep 23. At London arms fair, global war fears are good for business. As Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met this week to discuss what analysts believe will be a deal for an exchange of weapons, the West’s leading companies were descending on Europe’s biggest arms show in London.
Since the last iteration of the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) in September 2021, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and dramatically increased tensions over Taiwan and North Korea have given a shot of adrenaline to arms manufacturers worldwide.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, European defence spending rose 13 percent in 2022 alone, bringing total global spending to an all-time high of $2,240 bn.
Consultancy McKinsey reports that Russia saw its defence exports fall 21% over the first year following the Ukraine invasion, creating further openings for Western arms sales in the developing world.
Overall, it expects military spending to increase globally by an average of 4% a year through to 2028, led by Japan increasing its military budget by an unprecedented 14% a year.
“We are extremely busy,” says Michael Elmore, head of sales at MTL Advanced, which specialises in processing and fabricating armoured steel at its factory near Sheffield.
Within days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, it was supplying basic body armour plating for Ukrainian combat troops.
Since then, demand has only increased, particularly for armoured vehicle components to be used by both Britain and other European states. The firm says finding suitably skilled labour is a mounting problem, prompting it to step up its apprenticeship programme over the last two years.
The need for greater armour is one of the more obvious lessons of fighting in Ukraine, analysts say. Others include the importance of being able to move quickly, minimise electronic emissions to avoid detection, and the mounting importance of high volumes of unmanned systems.
Estonian firm MILREM, a market leader for light unmanned ground vehicles, says some of its equipment has already been trialled in action in Ukraine for tasks such as route clearance, surveillance and casualty evacuation.
Already, battlefield experience has highlighted the importance of night operations and resistance to electronic jamming, CEO Kuldar Vaarsi said.
“Ukraine is a very interesting combination of First and Second World War technologies and very modern technology,” said Vaarsi, also pointing to the development of “loitering munitions” and artificial intelligence analysis.
“Before the war in Ukraine, these were more theoretical concepts.”
MILREM says it has struggled to secure sufficient financing in Europe, prompting it to turn to Middle Eastern investors in the United Arab Emirates to fund the next round of development and expansion – a move only approved by European Union regulators with the strict provision that data from MILREM’s European military work would not be accessible by their non-European partners.
Such nervousness over information leaks is increasingly widespread – the United States and its allies are now engaged in a protracted worldwide effort to minimise loss of critical technology to Moscow and Beijing. Other worries include a lack of sufficient industrial capability to make basic weapons such as artillery shells as well as more expensive items such as drones and rockets.
UKRAINE, SOUTH KOREA
Ukraine fighting continues to consume huge volumes of Western stocks. According to experts at the conference, the waiting time to order a U.S. Javelin anti-tank missile is now in excess of three years. Britain’s BAE Systems unveiled a new artillery shell at DSEI this week specifically designed to be cheaper and faster to manufacture.
Britain doubled its arms exports in 2022 to a record £8.5bn, dominated by major arms purchases from Qatar and Saudi Arabia with significant volumes also going to the United States and Turkey. British officials also hope the AUKUS agreement with the U.S. to provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia will open the door to further deals.
DSEE is designed to build on that. But according to the organisers, this year has also seen a significant uptick in the presence of Asian, eastern and northern European manufacturers, many of them beneficiaries of Ukraine-related sales and rapidly shifting international partnerships.
South Korea’s tech and defence industries have made particular inroads into Europe, viewed as an alternative to China to manufacture high-tech chips and striking an increasingly confident series of defence deals to conquer the European market.
The largest, a 2022 $13.7bn deal to supply Poland with equipment including tanks, artillery pieces and jets, began delivering weapons within months. Defence industry insiders say South Korean firms are also now shipping increased amounts of weaponry to Taiwan, although this has not been acknowledged publicly.
Ukraine is also striking its own deals with foreign suppliers. Ukraine and Sweden this month announced a deal to jointly produce 1000 CV-90 infantry fighting vehicles for the Ukrainian army. Multiple firms including Britain’s BAE, Germany’s Rheinmetall and Finland’s Patria have all been reported to be talking with Ukraine to build factories there.
VARYING NATIONAL PRIORITIES
As one defence executive put it: “War is good for business”.
Ukraine has used unmanned drones at sea on a scale few Western navies could currently hope to match. On other areas, such as unarmed ground vehicles particularly for major resupply, the technology is still believed a year or two away from being truly operational – and with different countries pursuing a variety of priorities.
“Germany will most likely field autonomous logistic convoy capabilities before combat vehicles,” Rheinmetall Vice President for Business Development and Innovation Alain Tremblay said.
“The UK will probably be the first NATO country to formally integrate unmanned ground vehicles into their land forces. The U.S. Marine Corps are also moving very rapidly.”
Much depends on regulation. Rheinmetall and other firms say they already have the technology to push “trains” of multiple trucks across Europe with several vehicles following a single human driver. Getting permission to do that on ordinary roads would either require more testing or a major international crisis.
Such a crisis, however, is what many firms are quietly now preparing for.
Dominic Philpott, chief operating officer of Hanwha Phasor – a UK-based satellite relay firm now purchased by South Korean conglomerate Hanwha that serves both civilian and government clients – noted several shifts. Clients with sensitive projects no longer wanted microchips from China, he said, citing concerns over both security and future supply.
Those wanting satellite communications were also now requesting to access multiple different satellite systems at different levels in Earth orbit, giving them greater resistance to jamming or other deliberate action.
“That’s all happened very quickly,” he said. “Companies are looking for resilience.”
BATTLESPACE Comment: DSEI 23 exceeded everyone’s expectations! We await the stats to be published but the likelihood is that footfall will be up on 2021. BATTLESPACE editor Julian Nettlefold walked over 10kms a day! It was the first time ever that BATTLESPACE published two issues to coincide with DSEI and the issues were accepted with great interest particularly the C-UAS issue. The Editor was asked by Grant Burgham, DSEI Director, for his main comment on DSEI 23 and I replied the positive response to the show and the excellent divergence of technology. Another plus was the ease of entry in the morning!
14 Sep 23. AAD 2024 launched in London. With just over a year before the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2024 exhibition opens for business in South Africa, the largest and longest running exhibition of its type in Africa was officially launched at the DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) exhibition in London this week (12 September).
Armscor is the lead partner for AAD 2024, set down for Air Force Base (AFB) Waterkloof in Centurion from 21 to 24 September. Phillip Dexter, who currently chairs the State-owned defence acquisition and project management company, did the honours in London telling invited guests at the South Africa pavilion that AAD 2024’s theme “encompasses a plethora of possibilities”. The theme is exploring new paths, sharing solutions, showcasing innovation and capabilities with possibilities presented by special South African innovation hubs covering, among others, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), space, general aviation and energy highlighted by him.
An official AAD statement has the Armscor chair saying: “A subject gaining importance, not only in the military but also in government, corporates, academia, financial institutions, and civil society, is cyber security. This is critical due to the deleterious impact of malicious hacking, to which could be added artificial intelligence (AI) revolutionising much of how we go about our daily lives”.
Looking ahead he noted “a greater number of foreign delegations”, including defence ministers and chiefs of “various arms of the military”, will be invited to AAD 2024. Response, to date, is positive and augurs well for next year.
AAD 2022, at the same venue, was a success albeit with reduced attendance and exhibitor numbers – “only to be expected given the global lockdown which prompted cancellation of AAD 2000”.
“That is now behind us; we cast our eyes ahead for better times and focus on our rebound,” he said, adding the world is now “in a different space” with global aviation and the world’s defence industries on an “upward trajectory”.
Attention will be given to conferences and seminars, as well as capability demonstrations, which afford visitors and delegations a first-hand opportunity to see equipment in action. Capability demonstrations and live aerial displays are popular, especially for public visitors who attend in numbers over the weekend after the three trade days.
Dexter gave some insight into what he termed “South Africa’s stance on the world stage” saying it is incumbent on all nations to seek peace and security.
“Only in peaceful and secure circumstances can countries develop optimally to ensure progress and advancement of their people. This is the philosophy that undergirds South Africa’s stance on the world stage and it is the philosophy upon which we as AAD are building the upcoming event”. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
13 Sep 23. World Defense Show has announced that its exhibitor floorspace has completely sold out with five months to go before the opening of the second edition, which will be held between 4-8 Feb 2024, in Riyadh, KSA. In anticipation of increased demand, the show footprint at the bespoke exhibition site has been expanded by 25%, to include a third hall, but the event is still oversubscribed.
Andrew Pearcey, CEO World Defense Show, said: “We are delighted to announce that our exhibition space is completely sold out. If you are not already an exhibitor, hurry to register as a visitor to ensure you are able to participate in our exciting content programs, show features, live demos and to experience our unique Journey to the Future.”
Pearcey is also pleased with the truly international representation at the show next year which has 65 countries participating as exhibitors, of which 23 are appearing for the first time.
He said: “This further cements our position as the emerging global hub for the defense industry. Our inaugural event took place in 2022, at the tail end of the Covid epidemic when travel was still challenging for many people, and yet we still welcomed 65,000 visits from attendees from around the world, and announced more than SAR29.6 bn [US$7.89 bn] of deals signed over the four days. With the show running over five days and growing international interest in all that the Saudi defense market can offer, we expect to significantly increase the attendance and value of deals announced in 2024.”
There is a diverse array of opportunities for industry-wide networking to foster relationships and partnerships among the stakeholders across the defense and security supply chain.
WDS 2024 will see the return of the Delegations Program, matching high-ranking international government representatives to exhibitors looking to expand into their specific country markets, as well as the Meet the KSA Government program, which shares the latest developments on the Kingdom’s business guidelines, investment requirements and partnership processes to operate in line with the national defence industry’s overall objectives.
Those attending will have the opportunity to take part in the extended B2B Connect program. Pearcey added: “Our B2B Connect program is open to visitors and exhibitors. Running over three days, B2B Connect delivers a unique opportunity for credible suppliers to connect with global buyers and official delegations.”
New for WDS 2024 is the Space Arena, a dedicated section of the show which will have the latest space capabilities and technologies on show and aims to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strategic ambitions in space and identify future space opportunities for both the Kingdom and international partners.
08 Sep 23. SANDF hosting Military Skills Competition 2023. The South African Army Armour Formation will be hosting the Military Skills Competition 2023 in Potchefstroom, with international military participants from Angola, Botswana, Germany, Tanzania and the United States.
The competition runs from 10 to 17 September. As of 8 September, 15 New York National Guard soldiers and airmen are in South Africa, fielding “an all-woman team of Army and Air National Guard members”, including against female teams from other countries, according to US Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF).
The event is sponsored by the South African military’s Reserve Forces Council. Those participating are being judged “on rifle and pistol marksmanship, an eight-kilometre run, a land obstacle course, a water obstacle course, and grenade throwing,” said SETAF.
“I did it last year and it was an amazing time,” said US Army Guard Sergeant 1st Class Andrew Guckian, a human resources specialist assigned to Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill in the US, who said he jumped at the opportunity to be a participant.
Along with the all-woman, joint service team, the New York National Guard has sent “an Army National Guard and an Air National Guard team to compete. Each team consists of five personnel, a coach and four participants,” according to SETAF.
Previously, at least 21 countries sent their teams of reserve soldiers to the competition. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition could not take place for two years. Now, in 2023 at this weekend’s competition, it is “expected that the event will see more international competitors again,” said Air Guard Command Chief Master Sergeant Edward Stefik, who is serving as team leader and coach for the Army team. In a 2014 competition, Stefik, who is the senior enlisted leader for the 107th Attack Wing, took a second-place finish in the competition that year.
The New Yorkers will have had about three or four days before the competition to practice. This is very important, Guckian said, “because Potchefstroom is 4 396 feet above sea level. People who live in Buffalo, and New York City, need some time to acclimatize,” according to a SETAF publication. “It’s also a good chance to get uses to the South African R4 rifle and their issue pistol, Guckian said. “The swimming obstacle course is also very challenging. It’s fun, but it means going under and over water obstacles in a pool as fast as possible,” Guckian said.
The New York National Guard has been competing regularly in the South Africa event since signing a training partnership agreement with the South African National Defence Force in 2003 as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Programme.
Last year competitors from Botswana, Germany, the United States, and Zimbabwe joined their South African counterparts for the 2022 Military Skills Competition.
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent and media commentator with expertise on US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe
DSEI – POWERING PROGRESS, DEFINING YOUR FUTURE
DSEI connects governments, national armed forces, industry thought leaders and the entire defence & security supply chain on a global scale. With a range of valuable opportunities for networking, a platform for business, access to relevant content & live-action demonstrations, the DSEI community can strengthen relationships, share knowledge and engage in the latest capabilities across the exhibition’s Aerospace, Land, Naval, Security & Joint Zones.