16 Jul 2018

The sky’s the limit: Farnborough International Airshow preview

With the much-anticipated Combat Air Strategy due to be published this summer, the Farnborough International Airshow, taking place from 16 to 22 July, is likely to be a focus of attention for both the MOD and industry. With one of its key objectives being to preserve the UK’s ability to design and develop fighter jets and maintain Britain’s industrial expertise, the Strategy is likely to provide a real boost in a period of Brexit uncertainty.  

ADS Group, the trade organisation for businesses in the UK aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, believes that as the MOD further develops the UK’s approach to combat air in the coming months, it is imperative that the Strategy is imbedded within the UK’s existing R&D landscape and leverages all available national resources. 

“A close public-private relationship is vital in order to ensure that the UK collectively understands the road ahead and makes the appropriate investment decisions. A strategic national focus on key technologies, making early choices and leveraging civil R&D initiatives, will inevitably attract international partners who value the UK’s core capabilities. Working with allied partners will remain a key part of the UK’s approach to operations and R&D, and as such it is important that any future platform has interoperability at its core. For a strategy such as this, it is likely that international partners will be sought, and here it is vital that the UK remains ahead of the chasing pack and the ideal international partner,” explains Andy Johnston, Defence Policy Advisor for ADS Group. 

From the Spitfire and the Hawker Hurricane to the F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon, Britain has always been at the forefront of military aviation. It is a UK success story with a turnover of £8 billion, representing 85% of the UK’s defence exports and employing 30,000 people in high-skilled, well paid jobs in businesses that span the length and breadth of the country.  

This success story began at Farnborough. Known as the birthplace of British aviation, it was the location of the first powered flight by Samuel Cody and home to the Royal Aircraft Establishment where much of the testing and development took place for aircraft and associated technologies. For the past 70 years, the Farnborough International Airshow has offered a consistent backdrop to showcase the UK’s expertise and the show this summer is no exception.  

Exhibition space is at capacity with participants from throughout the supply chain supporting both civil and military capabilities. With Britain’s exit from the EU now less than a year away, the Airshow has attracted more global attendance than ever. Countries including Mexico, Turkey and the US will be vying for business alongside a significant European presence from Germany, France, Spain and, of course, the United Kingdom.  

With the Combat Air Strategy as prominent on the agenda as international trade, the Farnborough International Airshow will be the ideal springboard for future collaboration between the defence and civil aerospace sectors. Many advances in aerospace that have been developed for the commercial sector will have military applications and many them will be on show at Farnborough.  

For example, the Innovation Zone located in Hall 3 will be a chance to see the very best in advanced engineering universities, Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) and the agencies that support them, all in one central area. Highlighting some of the latest developments in areas such as artificial intelligence, autonomy and fuel efficiencies, the Innovation Zone is a vibrant networking and knowledge transfer hub at the heart of the Airshow. It is also the home of the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), the government-backed organised that sets the UK’s technology strategy, identifies global opportunities through its international engagement programme and helps connect the UK to the global sector. 

Equally, the Airshow’s Aerospace 4.0 feature will also be a useful source of knowledge for the defence aerospace industry. Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is a key topic for aerospace manufacturing and has the potential to transform the industry. Sponsored by Deloitte, the dedicated exhibition hall will provide an opportunity to explore some of these advanced digital technologies and the potential impact of the revolution. Exhibitors participating in this new feature will cover technologies such as cloud computing, location detection technologies, augmented realities, smart sensors and cyber security, to name just a few.  

Another new development for the show is the Live Product Demo Area. In collaboration with CrisisCast (leaders in specialist live events), an ‘Air Force Command Centre’ has been created right in the heart of the show in Hall 3. Played by actors, the ‘real-life’ scenario will allow exhibitors to demonstrate their defence and security products in an exciting and relevant way.  

The Live Product Demo Area will form part of the scheduled programme for military delegations attending the show. The military and commercial delegations programme is integral to the Airshow, giving exhibitors the opportunity to meet with government officials, chiefs of air staff and heads of business. Working in collaboration with exhibitors, a bespoke programme is being developed, based on delegations’ requirements.  

Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International, said: “The Airshow has always served as a valuable economic barometer – from the billions of dollars in deals announced through to the level of attendance – and coming just eight months ahead of Brexit, the strategic importance of this year’s event cannot be underestimated.” 

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