Reporting from DSEi, the world’s largest defence and security exhibition George Archer shares his impression of sector optimism as over 1300 exhibitors from 98 countries gather to showcase their wares.
Standing in line waiting to pick up my entry pass, one of the stewards standing next to the queue said to his colleague: “This is the worst one I’ve ever done.”
By worst, he means busiest. With the defence sector generating a whopping £22.1bn in 2010, and the security sector’s revenue consistently rising every year, the DSEi is becoming more and more important.
What’s clear is that as well as more traditional areas of defence such as land, maritime and aerospace growing, the security industry is picking up – and is on the way to becoming a serious force in the UK economy. In the face of MoD restructuring, the upcoming defence white paper in November and the discontinuation of the R&D scoreboard, defence companies are doing surprisingly well.
Ultra Electronics is a global defence, transport and energy company that arguably isn’t quite as well known as some of the other big players in the industry such as Finmeccanica and BAE Systems. The firm has its main manufacturing base in the UK and the US, with smaller operations in the Middle East and Australia.
“What makes the UK’s defence sector so strong is the fact so many companies plough so much of their cash into R&D,” said Tom Caster, communications manager. “We are no exception!” he added. This certainly seems to be the case, as he showed me the firm’s new Rifle-Mounted Gunfire Locator (RMGL).
“Our gunfire locator is better than other detection systems because it uses frequency-phase processing rather than simply measuring the time of arrival of the sound,” said Caster.
While the RMGL isn’t being produced on a large scale yet, it is currently in theatre for evaluation and the units are in production. Ultra Electronics expects to begin selling units in January or February 2012. Speaking to the company on the first day of DSEi, they said they had already seen interest from a number of customers.
Not all the exhibitors at DSEi had such powerful weapons on show, though. Essex-based manufacturer of electrical heaters and cooling systems Electrothermal Engineering had a stand and talked about the application of their products on the battlefield.
A spokesperson for the firm said that products offered by the company had a range of uses: from heating meals on land in camps to heating air cabins. “When you’re flying at high altitudes, the temperature drops to around -50 degrees centigrade so the plane needs a battery that is going to keep working in such cold conditions. The batteries we produce are surrounded in silicone rubber mat heaters.” According to Electrothermal Engineering, these heaters are able to heat up to 200 degrees centigrade, preventing any loss of function.
Another company displaying non-lethal military hardware was Armadillo Merino. The company was displaying its new range of lightweight garments, produced using merino wool in conjunction with textile and knitting techniques to create a fabric that is extremely good at resisting heat.
When soldiers are exposed to intense heat, previous fabrics have been known to melt, causing nasty burns to the skin. “While there will always be a place for synthetic fibre materials in the military, we’ve created a wool through selective breeding and novel manufacturing techniques that gets past many of the obstacles previous wool has fallen at,” said a spokesperson on the stand.
To make the garments as comfortable for soldiers as possible, the company has removed internal labels and has ensured that there are no seams underneath to armpit area. The company also highlighted the fact that one of the benefits wool has over synthetic fibres is the fact it can keep body temperatures down in hot conditions – something that has helped the company keep up growth during a time when many of its customers have forces deployed in countries with hot climates.