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FARNBOROUGH QUIET BUT CONFIDENT

26 Jul 02. The first sign of a quiet exhibition is the ease of entry and departure. The traffic problems at this year’s show were negligible unlike previous years. This was reflected in the distinct drop in visitors to the show but an increase in exhibitors.

The UK’s Watchkeeper programme dominated the defence debate with the decision now expected in August as discussed in our DAY 2 issue. The NATO TIPS programme now looks sure to succeed following the inclusion of a number of key European companies in the project, particularly Italy’s Galileo which is contributing some 20% into the project including avionics, electronics and UAVs. Developments following 9/11 reflected underlying optimism from the various manufacturers a number of whom were expressing quiet optimism for the future, particularly in the USA. Network Centric Warfare and Homeland Defense were key to a number of briefs from companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing. The $43bn expected to be released for these projects should come in the fourth quarter at which time growth will resume in this sector.

There were very few contract announcements in both civil and military sectors,
but despite the lack of big news, Boeing’s Chief Executive Phil Condit said he saw no difference for himself between this year and past shows. What filled the void on the civil front were vague but certainly important developments on the military side of aerospace life. Boeing and EADS along with BAE Systems signed infant deals to cooperate on controversial ballistic missile defense systems, but details were practically nonexistent.

Once again these deals pointed up the aerospace and defense industry’s promiscuous web of alliances and rivalries that would be totally alien to other businesses. Sometimes companies are friendly collaborators in one project while remaining fiercest foes in another.

But lately, the friendly side seems to be gaining ground as firms shop around for a piece of the expanding U.S. defense budget.

“My discussions at the EADS level have been fairly good,” Condit said about the missile defense deal, even though matters with Airbus have been tense. “Maybe because of consolidation in the U.S., we have all learned how to compete and collaborate.”

Robert Stevens, president of Lockheed Martin Corp the top U.S. defense contractor, said the show was invaluable for him in following developments on the global security front with military officials, suppliers and contractors.

Reflecting the lack of orders and visitors the flying was distinctly low key this year which enabled more meetings to be heard in full! In what some saw as an effort to retain bullishness in the programme one of the highlights of the flight displays were four new Eurofighters streaking across the cloudy English sky. Meant to fly a decade ago, it is still struggling for export sales and although denials have been issued, some observers still saw the cancellation of Tranche 3 as likely in the long term.

The drop in visitor numbers was beneficial to our readers as we had more time allowed for us to spend with companies discussing new developments.

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