In a Switch, UK Asks Its Arms Makers to Design for Export
Defense companies accustomed to making bespoke weapons for the MoD are being urged to consider overseas requirements as well.
LONDON — British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has a message for U.K. defense firms: If you want to boost profits, make sure you can sell your products overseas.
In return, Fallon vowed that the Defence Ministry would champion U.K. companies to allies and will “lead on key, strategic export campaigns” around the world.
“As a government, boosting our export successes in what is an increasingly competitive marketplace has to now be the priority,” Fallon said Tuesday at the Defence Security International Exposition, or DSEI, a massive arms show here.
The defense secretary named the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet and “complex weapons” as two projects the government would promote.
“These are areas where my department is best placed to offer unique benefits, such as the exchanges, advice, doctrine and training that can enhance the long-term capabilities of our partners and increase the interoperability that they are seeking.”
Last year, British defense and security exports topped $18.5 billion, Fallon said. The added emphasis is meant to boost the UK economy, add jobs, and preserve the country's industrial base.
Fallon urged companies companies to design arms and equipment for export up front as opposed to further down the road when it is more costly.
“In the past, we at MoD have contracted for highly bespoke products at great expense,” Fallon said. “But we’ve then found that such high specifications have proved a hard sell in the international marketplace. Only later, perhaps too late, have we considered how such capabilities could meet the requirements of other potential customers.”
The defense secretary also urged companies to use modularity and open systems when designing new equipment. He also urged firms to consider the commercial viability of products.
“This crossover from defense to the civil sector needs to become more commonplace,” he said.
U.S. defense firms have designing exportability into products much more often in recent years, particularly as they have looked to overseas sales themselves to offset Pentagon budget cuts.
Competition for government contracts “is tougher than ever, so the onus is now on industry to focus on exportability,” Fallon said.
New Missile Deal
Fallon also announced the Defence Ministry has inked a $450 million contract with MBDA UK for new Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles for its fighter jets.
“These weapons will allow the pilot to engage multiple targets with several missiles simultaneously,” Fallon said. Royal Air Force fighter jets have been patrolling the skies in the Baltics and striking Islamic State strongholds in Iraq.
The missiles will be built at a factory in the U.K., securing 400 high-tech jobs.