DSEi, the world's largest fully integrated international defence exhibition, takes place at Excel in London this week. Showcasing the latest technological developments in the defence industry, it provides an unparalleled opportunity for those in the industry to network, see the latest innovations and hear about the challenges facing the industry.
"This business is all about technology," DSEi group exhibition director Max Rance says, adding that the tone of this year's DSEi has been set by the UK's Defence Industrial Strategy, released 18 months ago.
The strategy recognises the fact that defence technology is no longer about huge, long-term technological developments but is focused on supporting and upgrading existing technologies to quickly meet emerging threats.
"The future business for the defence industry in many sectors will be in supporting and upgrading these platforms, rapidly inserting technology to meet emerging threats, fulfil new requirements and respond to innovative opportunities, not immediately moving to design the next generation."
Rance says companies exhibiting at DSEi are attuned to what is important – getting technology developed, through production and into the battle space as quickly as possible.
SMALL COMPANY, BIG OPPORTUNITY
DSEi's Rance says DSEi will assist small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which will show their technology to the market, while meeting others in the industry which will inspire new innovations and offer guidance. To this end, DSEi has set up an innovation showcase, where companies have the opportunity to present and demonstrate their equipment to a larger audience.
For example, Host Systems will be promoting its latest mobile air traffic control tower, known as the Mobile Visual Control Room, and Sound-To-Go will show Mega-Voice: a PA system in a rucksack. NIC Instruments will present a new lightweight remotely operated vehicle (ROV), made from aluminium and titanium with a claw for lifting objects and opening doors, called First Responder.
However, the innovation showcase is not the only place to find the latest developments.
Ricardo, L3 Communications and Magnet Motors have developed an advanced military hybrid vehicle demonstrator which will be unveiled for the first time at DSEi.
And General Dynamics C4 Systems will put the focus on information technology, with its unveiling of the first fully rugged ultra-compact PC, the GoBook MR-1 which can withstand dense humidity, harsh temperatures and other harrowing conditions often faced by troops deployed in damaging environments.
It will also show DynaVue, a new screen technology which allows users to see a computer screen as clearly in direct sunlight as they can in the shade, and a very small ultra mobile personal computer (UMPC) – a 6in x 4in x 1in notebook computer that packs the same power as an ordinary notebook.
General Dynamics C4 Systems managing director for Europe and the Middle East Sandy McCaskie says DSEi is the perfect venue for showcasing new technology to the defence industry.
"If we had to show our products to clients on a one-by-one or country basis, it would take forever to launch new technology. DSEi is a marvellous showcase for them to see what's coming along."
McCaskie says although the industry does move a lot faster than it did a decade ago, there is still a 12 to 18-month lead time on sales. Which makes events such as DSEi all the more important.
"The business we're realising today – a lot of it was generated at DSEi two years ago."
This year, DSEi also features a two-day conference, addressing transformation strategy for people, policy and acquisition within the global defence community.
The first stream, 'strategic supply chain collaboration', will look at the need for sovereign capability whilst recognising the need for the industry to work within an open and competitive market.
'Business and battle space network implementation', the second stream, will examine information infrastructure, while considering people, processes and military culture when implementing systems.
Director of NATO's C3 Agency Dag Wilhelmsen will discuss the NATO NCW Implementation programme, while General Dynamics' vice president Andrew Browne and BATCIS's former IPT leader Brigadier Rick Bounsall talk about how to make the network function.
Reed Exhibitions aerospace and defence group conference manager Huw Jones says: "We wanted to add a strategically focused conference to this year's DSEi to appeal to visitors that might not usually have a reason to visit the show."
Jones says the supply-chain stream will look at the issues around the procurement policy and the relationship between military buyers and industry suppliers.
"Delivering capabilities as efficiently as possible to the military customer is a massive and ongoing issue and the relationship between industry and military is at the centre of that."
The second stream, covering net-centric warfare, will look at case studies of communications infrastructure being implemented, lessons identified and types of new technology used.
"Net-centric warfare is a concept which is slowing turning into a reality," Jones says.
"It has a lot of capability gaps, a lot of energy going into filling those gaps, so there are a lot of questions in it at the moment around what is effective and what is not. It's a very pertinent and timely issue."
Organisers are expecting over 25,000 visitors to this year's show and say it is set to continue to grow in future years.
Rance is keen to stress that although conference owners, Reed Exhibitions, have put DSEi up for sale, he is confident the show will be back in 2009.
"DSEi is great product with a strong future," he says.
"We're going ahead as a product, it's a great brand. We're now on our fifth show of this series, the fourth at Excel and we will be around for 2009."