The tech and the deals: a special report from DSEI
This year’s DSEI once again saw the world’s defence industry descend on the Excel in London’s Docklands to discuss the latest developments in defence technology and show delegations from over 40 countries the state of the art. Claire Apthorp reports.
This year, DSEI had the highest level of support from the UK's recently elected Conservative government with keynote speeches from Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon as well as the Minister for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne. Rear Admiral Simon Williams, chairman of DSEI organiser Clarion Defence & Security, said that "the support we are receiving from the UK government is solid evidence of their commitment to the nation's defence and security sectors."
The show also gave the UK's three service chiefs a high-profile opportunity to argue their case in advance of the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The message from all three, as well as the head of the joint command, was that they are increasingly being asked to do more with less and that the armed forces are at full stretch.
Tech on display
In the halls the focus was largely on the land sector while alongside the dock warships from a number of countries were on show. This year the ships included the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke and River class offshore patrol vessel HMS Tyne, the Royal Canadian Navy's Halifax class frigate HMCS Winnipeg, the Belgian Navy's coastal patrol vessel BNS Castor, and the German Navy's K130 class corvette FGS Ludwigshafen.
The organisers have also been keen to add into the mix an increasing amount of air systems. Once again a model of the Eurofighter Typhoon greeted visitors to the event; a trip aboard the Royal Navy's new Wildcat helicopter also generated a lot of interest.
The Indian Armed Forces are in the middle of an ambitious modernisation programme.
Big ticket items on display included the upgraded Warrior infantry fighting vehicle complete with its new Lockheed Martin turret. The show also offered the chance for the British Army to officially rename the UK's Scout Specialist Vehicle as Ajax with the announcement made by the Chief of the General Staff Nick Carter and a turreted prototype of the vehicle being officially unveiled at the show.
A number of key subcontracts for Ajax were timed to coincide with DSEI. It was revealed that Thales will be providing its DNGS-T3 stabilised day/night gunnery sight for the vehicle's production phase; Saab will provide its mobile camouflage system and Marshall will be supporting XPI in vehicle driver training simulation.
Carter also announced that the UK would soon kick off a project to acquire a new 8x8 mechanised infantry vehicles, an announcement that was greeted with enthusiasm by defence industry. Also in the mix is the eventual replacement for the UK's Challenger 2 main battle tank and the Royal Marines Bv206s.
The next step for unmanned systems
On the technology front one new area that gained a lot of attention at the show was counter UAS technologies. A number of companies launched their counter UAS offerings at DSEI in a bid to meet demand from armed forces and civil authorities who are seeking ways to control the proliferation of 'rogue drones'.
Leading the charge were three UK SMEs - Blighter Surveillance Systems, Chess Dynamics and Enterprise Control Systems - with what they say is the world's first fully integrated anti-UAV defence system (AUDS). The system was originally launched in May, but the one on display at DSEI included a new quad band radio frequency inhibitor/jammer. The system can detect UAS up to 8km out and block their ability to communicate with their operators.
Selex ES unveiled its Falcon Shield counter UAS system, which it says is designed to detect and defeat micro and mini UAS. The company brings its electronic warfare expertise to bear on the system, integrating an electronic attack capability with a multi-spectral threat sensing capability to provide a multi-layered threat response. According to Selex, this response introduces a capability to take control of a remotely piloted UAS via a command-link control intervention capability, and land it safely prior to the need to defeat the threat by simple jamming or kinetic solutions - minimising the potential for undesired collateral effects.
A third solution is being offered by Sweden's Saab. The company introduced the counter UAS capabilities of its Giraffe agile multi beam ground based radar with the addition of an enhanced low, slow and small function that enables the radar to detect small UAS against background clutter while continuing to conduct its full suite of regular air surveillance functions. The company has already put the system through UK government funded demonstrations.
On the flipside of UAS technology Aero Surveillance announced the launch of its new ASF unmanned airborne surveillance system designed for short-range operations. According to the company, the new ASF 15 is a light system that integrates highly sophisticated onboard and ground based image-processing capabilities with secured multi-channel communications.
The new ASF 15 includes the FA 15 unmanned aircraft vehicle - a light pylon pusher electric aircraft capable of carrying up to 3kg of payload for up to two hours - a high precision dual sensor gyro-stabilised gimbal with both HD and a compact transportable ASG T150 dual display control station.
Another area of continued interest at DSEI was in mine detection both for current operations and humanitarian use. Austrian manufacturer Schiebel, which is known for its unmanned systems and mine detection equipment, launched a new generation of its hand-held COMIDD compact mine detector at the show.
The company said that many years of experience and development had gone into producing a mine detector that incorporates advanced technology whilst retaining the proven and trusted capabilities of its mine detection product range. COMIDD has been developed for easy handling in static search, quick calibration and improved visual and acoustic support functions, helping the user to implement the required actions quickly and safely.
Big moments for small tech developers
Many of the more interesting high-tech systems were found on the stands of smaller companies.
Much attention was focussed on the special forces solutions being offered by US-based Mohoc. The company has taken high-resolution camera technology being used in the sports and adventure markets and repackaged it for military users. Its offering includes high-resolution day and night camera options that are ruggedised for military use, with a secondary housing and waterproof casing. The helmet or chest-mounted system is powered by lithium-ion rechargeable and CR123A batteries, and has tactile vibration feedback and no white light discharge for special force operations.
White Glacier also drew crowds with its Arctic 25 cold water immersion suit, with live demonstrations held throughout the show in a 1,000 gallon ice water tank. The suit, which is made from a mix of non-neoprene patented materials, is designed to protect the wearer from freezing water, extremely cold temperatures and frigid arctic winds to combat the effects of hypothermia for more than 25 hours. The suit is aimed at the maritime safety market, including military forces operating in extreme maritime environments.
In all, this year's DSEI provided attendees the opportunity to get up close and personal with cutting-edge technologies on offer from the world's leading defence companies. The defence equipment staples were a key attraction, but among the stands it was the little guys that were putting some of the most innovative ideas into action.