New UK Minister for Defence Peter Luff has announced a major drive to boost defence exports as part of a strategy to offset the deep spending cuts widely expected at this year's defence review.
Luff, who made his first speech at the opening of the DVD 2010 defence equipment show, will be instrumental in implementing this year's strategic defence and security review (SDSR) set against a difficult background of a major budget deficit and criticism for poor equipment linked to the loss of life.
To compensate for budget cuts – and the resulting job losses - the new minister announced a major commitment to increasing defence exports.
"There will be a very, very, very heavy ministerial commitment to the process," he said.
"There's a sense that in the past we were rather embarrassed about exporting defence products. There's no such embarrassment in this government."
Luff announced a two-fold approach for getting the best value for the UK taxpayer – following up the SDSR with a new defence industrial strategy to maximise exports, reduce acquisition costs and safeguard jobs.
Luff said the government has had successes with counter-IED equipment – presenting a platoon from the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh, which survived two bomb blasts in two days in a Mastiff 2 six-wheel drive patrol vehicle – despite recent criticism saying troops were under equipped.
"The light protected patrol vehicle (LPPV) programme aims to bring the same protection to smaller vehicles," he said.
Luff also announced a MoD order of 140 extra Jackal patrol vehicles worth £45m and 28 additional Wolfhound heavy tactical support vehicles worth £20m.
He also highlighted the £96m Talisman route proving and clearance system, designed to protect soldiers from hidden explosives, which was unveiled at the event.