Here’s the go-to small-talk question from just about everyone at the Paris Air Show this week: “Any news?”
This year’s edition of the biennial event has lacked the typical flurry of announcements of major defense deals, program moves, and partnerships between companies. You may be asking why firms spent millions of dollars (if not tens of millions) just to show up? The simple answer: networking.
Unlike the air and arms shows in the Middle East, where generals read the receipts of the billions of dollars in deals inked that day, Paris gathering is more about planting the seeds of future arms deals and military partnerships.
Paris still draws the chiefs of just about every major American defense contractor, who took refuge from this week’s scorching heat and sweat-soaked suits inside chilled corporate chalets. Military leaders from dozens of countries were here, along with the U.S. transportation secretary and deputy defense secretary, Air Force and Marine Corps generals, Navy admirals — the list goes on.
“I’ve talked to a lot of our member companies who report that they’re having excellent dialog with both international potential partners on business and also with our primes,” said John Luddy, vice president for national security policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, the chief advocacy group for America’s defense and aerospace sector. “We got a pretty good amount of policy work done here.”
A few days ahead of the show, a State Department official likened the jammed-packed meeting to three days of speed dating. “Everybody’s there and that’s what’s significant,” the official said.
Indeed, this year’s Paris event felt like something of a resurgence, according to people who have been coming for decades. Back in 2013, the Pentagon barely showed up, thanks to sequestration and American budget cuts.
And while Northrop Grumman, which has been skipping Paris and the UK-based Farnborough Air Show since 2012, declined to attend, other participants have expanded their presence. Case in point: U.S. state governments. More than a dozen showed of them up.
“We want to recruit companies to the state of Oklahoma and then grow the ones that we already have,” said Vince Howie, director of aerospace and defense for the Oklahoma Commerce Department.
Oklahoma is home to Tinker Air Force Base, a major military logistics hub, and an American Airlines maintenance facility. Aerospace is the state’s second-largest industry (behind oil and gas) employing 120,000 people accounting for 7.4 percent of the state’s economy, Howie said. The major defense companies — including Boeing — have a presence in the state.
Howie said the Paris Air Show provides a rare opportunity for their governor to meet with the CEOs of all the major defense firms. “It’s the one place you can come and do it all in three days,” he said.
In Paris, the Oklahoma delegation met with an Italian firm that looking to do production work in the state, Howie said. (He declined to name the firm).
“It’s an opportunity that we could have one more touch point with them without traveling to Italy,” he said.
Most of the defense work is centered around aircraft maintenance work and suppliers and manufacturers of parts. But they’re looking to the future.
“We’re looking at opportunities to put — especially near Tinker — a facility that can fabricate parts with 3D printing, so-called additive manufacturing, right next to the sustainment facility,” said Oklahoma Science and Technology Secretary Kelvin Drogemeier,
So stand by to see if and when the seeds of this networking fest begin to sprout in the coming months.
You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber, coming to you this week from Le Bourget, France. Here’s a hyperlapse video of many of the planes on display at this week’s Paris Air Show. As always, send you tips, feedback and random thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!
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Bad Day for Missile Defense Test
Industry officials were upbeat before this week’s test of a longer-range SM-3. But the Wednesday evening test in Hawaii failed, the Missile Defense Agency said. Radar detected and tracked the missile launch and an interceptor was fired from the USS John Paul Jones, according to the agency. But it missed.
The test — the fourth for this specific version of the missile — was supposed to be the last one before the U.S. and Japan placed purchase orders in the next six to seven months.
Speaking at the Paris Air Show on Monday, Mitch Stevison, vice president of air and missile systems at Raytheon Missile Systems (the firm that makes the interceptor) called the Wednesday event the “final developmental test for the SM-3 IIA missile. It really is the intercept test that solidifies the fact that you’re through your development phase.”
The interceptor did shoot down an interceptor during a February test. “There are slight changes, but [this test is] a repeat of that test in a lot of ways,” Stevison said. “It’s just to solidify the fact that the system works. It really is the test that says you’re ready to go to the next phase of the program.”
In a statement, Missile Defense Agency officials said they would “conduct an extensive analysis of the test data. Until that review is complete, no additional details will be available.”
The SM-3 IIA is to be deployed to a new U.S. missile defense site in Poland.
The version of the interceptor tested Wednesday is larger than the regular SM-3 and has a “much more sensitive seeker” that allows it “to see more targets that are dimmer, see them further,” Stevison said. It is designed to ”ability to deal with more sophisticated threats.”
While the regular SM-3 can defend the area of a “small state,” the larger version can “defend over half of the eastern seaboard of the the United States. It’s that kind of game-changer from a defended area standpoint...It creates the next dynamic in expanding regional missile defense to really be more meaningful in the ability to deal with more advanced threats and to defense much more area.”
The test failure comes amid increased missile threats from North Korea against the U.S. and its allies in the Pacific. Last month, the Pentagon shot down a sophisticated missile using larger interceptors that defend the U.S.
Following the bizarre “we’re not going; we weren’t invited; OK, I guess we’ll go” drama in the month ahead of the Paris Air Show, two F-35s made the trip across the pond — even as some planes back in the States were grounded after pilots experienced oxygen deprivation symptoms. The F-35A, the Air Force version, flew an air-show routine for the first time, making steep climbs and tight turns with its afterburner glowing. Here’s a video of the F-35 flying on Day 3.
Back home, the F-35s at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona have resumed flying after an 11-day grounding, the Air Force said in a statement. Following the deployment of F-35s to Europe in April and May, the Air Force is looking to deploy the planes again. “While we typically don’t discuss operational plans, we are leaning forward for a deployment somewhere in the Pacific region hopefully in about the fall time frame,” said Col. Todd Canterbury, the service’s F-35 Integration Officer.
How might President Donald Trump’s proposal to slash foreign aid affect foreign arms deals? Not much, said Heidi Grant, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, About 90 percent of the money allies spend on Air Force-related arms comes is their own money, not foreign aid. “While I’m concerned about some of the [foreign aid] reductions and the impact it has on international military education and training in some of those countries that depend on the foreign military financing, for some of our large sales, I don’t see it having a huge impact [on arms sales],” Grant said.
Russia Looks to Boost Civil Aircraft Production
Moscow wants more of its aircraft manufacturing industry focused on civil aircraft. Right now, about 86 percent of the aircraft built in Russia are warplanes. Yury Slyusar, president of Russia’s United Aircraft Corp., said the goal is to boost the share of civil aircraft to about 40 percent over the next 20 years. The largely state-owned firm is “placing an emphasis on civil programs,” Slyusar said.
Speaking of the Russians
Russian warplanes are meddling with NATO forces at an alliance wargame in Eastern Europe again. “The numbers [of air-to-air intercepts] this year are equivalent to those from the past,” Gen. Tod Wolters, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said. “I’ve been looking at trending items, but the trend has remained the same.” The U.S. Army-led Saber Strike wargame — held across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — is finishing up this week.
Bad News for US Air Force Pilot Shortage
The Air Force has made no secret that it is short of pilots, because they are hanging up their military flight suits and heading off to fly commercial planes. Now a new study says the global demand for airline pilots will only increase. Some 255,000 new airline pilots will be needed over the next 10 years, according to a new report by CAE, a firm that builds aircraft simulators for the commercial sector and military. The company is part of the Leonardo DRS Technologies team vying to build a new training jet for the Air Force.