London, 9–12 September 2003

An IDC Report


New Delhi, 28 September 2003

From a small exhibition held first outside London –– south of Heathrow in 1999 to the DSEi 2003 –– a big show at a spanking new location. “The Excel” in the Docklands Canary Wharf area of London, has seen a stupendous growth indeed. The Dome and Greenwich Observatory are close by. Right next-door is a quay with space to berth 9 warships in deep waters on the Thames.

One of the World’s leading Defence Expositions which now attracts military attention of uniformed, civil and government personnel, associated industries and export organizations from around the world, the Defence Systems and Equipment International was held in London from 9–12 Sep 2003. The exhibition this year was held in association with the UK Ministry of Defence, supported by the UK Defence Manufacturers Association, the British Naval Equipment Association and Intellect, all of whom worked closely with the Organisers.

DSEi was now to be held every two years and had overtaken Defendory of France and many other exhibitions. India’s own DEFEXPO 2002 was about one fourth in size and quality but we learn that DEFEXPO 2004 will be bigger, as the CII will include Hall No 13 as well at Pragati Maidan, and Defence exhibitions supported by Governments are total money spinners. No one loses in Defence Exhibitions and Geoff Hoon UK’s Defence Secretary proudly announced that UK was now the second largest Defence Exporter after USA, though a recent US Congress Report puts USA first followed by Russia and then France. Exhibitions are also platforms for exports of the host country and allow for wining and dining of those in uniform also without pinching pockets.

India must learn a lesson or two as India’s defence budget is one of the largest for imports in the developing world and growing, but what it now needs direly is exports. If bureaucrats let go the reins then this would be possible. Yet we feel that this was unlikely as Government wants to import for the hidden benefits and also hog the exports in the name of security. Even though 26% FDI was permitted in the Defence Sector, there was no headway and no Agents had been cleared. We hope there is some renewed thinking and India can announce some customers for the SU-30MKK, INSAS 5.56 mm rifle, BEL Sonars, Avionics and the BRAHMOS Missile or some such so that these can act as catalysts for defence exports.

This year at DSEI, 950 companies from 28 countries took part and at the outset one must mention India and Pakistan did not put up stalls but both countries had their Defence Attaches and delegations at the show. India and Pakistan must have sent some Intelligence Agency reps as these exhibitions are a treasure trove of information and contacts.

The Indian Navy team of three was led by a Gunnery specialist VADM Raman Puri FOC in C East, Indian Navy’s third most senior officer, who has since been named Chief of Integrated Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff (CISC). The Confederation of Indian Industries had sent a business delegation of 11 mainly from Tatas, steel companies and private operators who supply to the MOD or have collaborations. Some were looking for exports. There were only some twenty other Indians to be seen at the show, and they were reps of companies like BEL, Mahindras and others who do agency work for Defence Manufacturing Association of UK as also a few journalists.

There were top brass and uniforms of all hues at the show from all over the world. The delegations were well hosted by the DESO –– Defence Exports Organization of UK. Some 42 military delegations were officially invited from all over the world including two officers from Pakistan but it is Indians who were lucky for the timing of the show held special interest. India’s CCS had just cleared the $1.4 bill 66 AJT BAe Hawk for purchase from UK, 7 EW systems from Rafale of Israel and upgraded equipment for the Army, so the Indians at the show were very well received. They know that the Indian Defence budget will get spent this year. S Africa already had orders for an ammunition factory in George Fernandes’s constituency in Bihar and was looking to win the 155mm Gun contract and build on the BHIM with a G-6 Turret and France awaited the six Scorpene submarines deal at US$1.4 billion.

The Americans were confused on how they should approach India. An absolutely unconfirmed story doing the rounds at the show was that there were two camps in India’s defence procurement system, with two lobbies –– one controlled by Ministry of Defence and the other by the PMO and the National Security Adviser. The purchase system for defence hardware and timing of the CCS meetings for their clearance were a ‘mystery wrapped in an enigma’ –– as Churchill may have said –– for the companies who do business so they keep all happy. The vintage Official Secrets Act also dictated that no progress was made to make the system more transparent. At the show the Western world’s purchases and contracts were all public knowledge and that surprised an Indian. The status of our conventional purchases were known to the Western world as LOIs and PNCs were initiated, but little was known about them in India. Jane’s Defence Stall had experts on all subjects and if any queries needed answering about India that was the place to go. Yet everyone talked ‘off the record’ in the case of India.

As the organizers indicated this was the third event in the DSEi series and the second to be held at the world-class Excel venue, where the catering was superb. We can now confirm that Defence and Security doctrines had been rewritten in the last two years against a background of continuing operations in many parts of the world including the war in Iraq, with the words terrorism, littoral warfare, preemptive defence and attack from sea taking center stage. Hence the emphasis from the cold war days had completely changed. Defence equipment now had sophistication in software and lethality. The rates of failure of systems and weapons had reduced. These changes were the focus of many conversations during the exhibition and its associated conferences. At the same time, the event served as a showcase for the latest scientific and technological advances in defence capability, much of it being network enabled. For us some of the advances were mind boggling. The launch of new equipment, missiles, C4I systems, unveiling the latest designs and the announcement of new collaborative projects were the hallmarks of DSEi.

During the week there were disturbances as peace objectors sat on the Dockland Railway lines to object to the show of weapons yet some 20,000 visitors traveled from around the world and UK to see the defence systems and services offered by more than 900 companies from 28 countries. In addition to the 16 national pavilions led by host UK, USA, France, Germany, Europe and the major corporate stands, a spotlight was laid on the group of visiting warships, berthed immediately alongside the exhibition hall. They included a type 23 HMS Grafton, a minesweeper HMS Bangor from UK, the French Frigate anti sours-marine Latouche Treville, Minesweeper M-917 Crocus from Netherlands. The ships were visited with enthusiasm and all equipment was kept switched on.

A special feature area for Unmanned Systems and Training & Simulation was introduced and a greater tri-service exhibition approach was seen with the Eurofighter Typhoon and an Apache helicopter on display. For India BAe, CAE (which provides Indian Navy AIO solutions), Alsthom (provides gear box engine mesh for IN), Dockwise (carried Kilo subs to Russia on deck) , Delft and Diehl (involved in Arjun) , Raytheon Thales (WLRs ANTPQ 47 suppliers), DCN (Scorpene suppliers with Thales and Amaris), Rolls Royce, MBDA, Alenia, Oto Melara and a host of other companies like these could keep the inquisitive visitor occupied while sipping some red wine which was good for health. The conference was also very informative. In all DSEi lived up to the expectation of the visitors.

UK and DSEi 2003

The defence industry was now involved in collaborative and joint venture projects –– and DSEi recognized that trend with more than half of the companies this year coming from overseas. They ranged in size from small and medium-sized enterprises to international primes.

As Mr. Geoff Hoon stated, “We are justifiably proud of the capabilities of the United Kingdom’s defence industry, which contributes in full measure to the enviable reputation of our armed forces. I would particularly like to acknowledge the industry’s outstanding support during operations. Our partnership with industry is excellent, and companies in the United Kingdom continue to demonstrate that they can produce superlative equipment and support it under the most demanding conditions. I am sure that our guests will also recognize the need for the robust controls that are the hallmark of the responsible defence exporter. The United Kingdom adheres to the strict Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, and, within those guidelines, the Government fully supports our industry in offering high quality, through-life solutions”.

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