Farnborough 2016: weathering the storm
Returning for another record-breaking show, Farnborough International Airshow 2016, held in Hampshire from 11 to 17 July, proved it could weather the storms, both political and meteorological. Here, MOD DCB features editor Julie Shennan reviews the vital trade show element of the event.
Torrential rain may have brought Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) 2016 to an early close on its opening day, Monday 11 July, but, undeterred, exhibitors returned in record numbers for the rest of the week, to show UK aerospace and defence was open for business.
This was also the message from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who addressed Farnborough delegates following the recent referendum vote to leave the EU and shortly before he formally relinquished office.
Facing questions about Brexit’s implications for the UK defence supply chain, Mr Cameron assured the Farnborough audience that the Government was committed to boosting the UK defence industry.
He said: “We must recognise we are in a new reality now. We must accept it, we must make it work. That’s the way British business is responding to the referendum result.
“The key things we need to get right are these: our future relationship with Europe, Britain’s underlying productivity challenges, and the need to grow exports faster and encourage more inward investment.”
This ambition was echoed by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) Chairman for Aerospace Marcus Bryson, who announced a joint government and industry Aerospace Growth Partnership Supply Chain Competitiveness charter.
The charter – signed by Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce and more – signals industry’s willingness to collaborate in order to strengthen UK defence offerings.
Commenting on the pledge, Mr Bryson said: “You can see the companies that are involved; they are all major players.
“The UK Aerospace Growth Partnership will work closely with government to continue to make the best use of all international trade opportunities and continue to grow the UK’s high-value jobs.”
Backing this commitment is a further £365 million of joint UK government and industry funding for aerospace R&D projects. The funding comes as part of a £4 billion public- private aerospace investment pledge, which will be realised over the next 13 years.
Leading this pledge is Boeing, who spoke at Farnborough 2016 about their plans to support supply chain learning, double their UK supplier opportunities, establish a presence in the UK Space Centre and support an RAF training base.
Boeing Vice President of International Strategic Defense Partnerships, Maria Lane, confirmed: “We are going to work with the UK Government to support a training base in Lossiemouth, Scotland; this will provide additional jobs and opportunities within Boeing UK.”
UK defence training was also the focus of Lockheed Martin at Farnborough 2016. Tim James, Director, UK Business Development Mission Systems and Training, explained why Ascent Flight Training, the Lockheed Martin and Babcock International partnership, was attracting international attention.
He said: “RAF Valley, which runs the Military Flight Training System (MFTS) has had the most amazing number of senior international delegation visitors who have all heard great things about the programme. It is really putting the UK at the forefront of defence training.”
MFTS training uses intelligent classrooms and clever synthetics – such as simulators and learning management systems – which allow students continuity of form as they graduate from aircraft to fast jet training.
Ascent Flight Training will now deliver MFTS on the Ministry of Defence’s future air crude training systems; as well as those supporting fixed wing pilots, rotary wing pilots, multi-engine pilots and fast jets, including the F35 Lightning II.
Looking even further skyward, leading information technology business CGI also made a big contract announcement at FAI2016. The company revealed it had been chosen by the MOD to develop a transformation roadmap for the UK Space Operations Centre (UK SpOC).
Steve Smart, CGI UK Senior Vice President for Space, Defence, National and Cyber Security, said: “For over 40 years, we have developed secure space and defence IT systems and we look forward to bringing this unique expertise, as well as our experience in business engineering, training, commercial tools and techniques from across CGI, to help the MOD develop its sovereign space capabilities.”
With these and many more UK defence contracts announced at Farnborough 2016, the Airshow brightened the perspectives and prospects of many delegates, who having faced the rain could yet walk away smiling.