BILL READ FRAeS reports on the highlights from the 2017 DSEI show held in London from 12-15 September. 

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Held every two years, the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition provides an international showcase for companies from the land, sea, air, space and cyber sectors of the defence industry. According to show organisers, Clarion Events, this year’s show held at the London ExCel was the largest ever, with 36,000 visitors from over 40 countries. There were 1,600 exhibitors (of which 300 were new), 600 from the UK, 400 from mainland Europe, 300 from the USA, 90 from Asia, 50 from Australia and 50 from South Africa. The organisers were also expected 2,500 VIPs from 60 countries.  

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The exhibition was divided into a number of dedicated zones, including air, land, sea and security. There was also an ‘innovation hub’ designed to encourage companies new to the defence sector or wishing to expand. The last day of the show featured a People and Skills Day focusing on advancement of the industry’s personnel, skills and STEM development. 

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During DSEI there were a number of conferences focusing of different aspect of defence, including air, land and maritime capability, the future of military rotorcraft and medical trauma innovation and military nursing.

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There was also a series of presentations from six different theatres during the show from leading international VIPs. Speakers included UK Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon; International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox; Ben Wallace, Minister of State for Security; Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Defence Procurement; ACM Sir Stephen Hillier; First Sea Lord Sir Nicolas Carter;  and Jorge Domecq, CE of the European Defence Agency.  

Here’s some of the highlights:  

Aggressive trainer 

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Swedish aerospace and defence company Saab launched a trainer version of its Gripen fighter based on the Gripen C (with the two-seat Gripen D as an additional option). Named the Gripen Aggressor, the unarmed aircraft is fitted with advanced sensor and datalinks.  

A mock-up of the aircraft was on display inside the ExCel. Saab is hoping that the Gripen Aggressor can be a contender for the UK’s 15-year ASDOT (Air Support to Defence Operational Training) programme to provide ‘Red Air’ adversaries for RAF fighter training and ‘Blue Air’ platforms for the training of joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) and fighter controllers. The Aggressor is also being pitched for a US Air Force advanced adversary requirement that could be contracted in early 2019. Other aircraft were on display both inside and outside the exhibition building, including a Tornado GR4, Chinook, Apache, Wildcat and Merlin helicopters. 

British-built morphing UAV 

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 Lockheed Martin took advantage of the show to unveil its new Outrider surveillance UAV which can be launched from air, land or sea. Lockheed’s International Business Development Manager for OUTRIDER programmes (UK), Paul James, explained how the 4in wide when folded UAV was launched from a canister and then unfolded into a flying platform. The Outrider can also be launched from a submarine, the canister floating to the surface which then launches the UAV from sea level. The electric propeller-powered Outrider is fitted with gimballed HDTV and infrared sensors at the rear. Able to operate autonomously or remotely piloted, the morphing UAV is currently controlled by COTS sotfware but an updated version will move to Lockheed’s mobile ground control station. It will also be possible to control multiple Outriders from one controller. If launched underwater, the UAV can be controlled from a submarine at periscope depth. The 1.7kg Outrider can fly up to 50kt and remain in the air for over 2.5hrs and in most cases the UAV can be recovered after use. Lockheed Martin has worked with UK motorsport company Wirth Research on the design of Outrider, including modelling computational fluid dynamics and composite construction. To avoid US International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) export restrictions, the Outrider is made in the UK and is now on sale to third parties. 

Life-saving award 

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Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky presented a Bristow S-92 Helicopter Crew with the Sikorsky Winged-S Rescue Award in recognition of a recent life-saving mission in the North Atlantic. Bristow Helicopters operates S-92 search and rescue helicopters on behalf of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) as part of the 10-year UK SAR contract from the UK Department for Transport. In May 2017, a Bristow S-92 crew operating out of the HM Coastguard Prestwick rescued 22-year-old surfer Matthew Bryce who was stranded at sea for 32 hours. 

Scaleable trainers 

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UK military training specialists Inzpire showcased its new Targeted Fidelity simulator (TFS) which can be customised to simulate different types of aircraft, weapons systems and training requirements. Designed to be upgradable and scalable, the TFS can be installed in much smaller spaces that traditional full motion simulators. Multiple TFS can be networked together from different locations. 

Meanwhile, Leonardo announced that it will be partnering with Inzpire and Discovery Air Defence Services discovers new path forward for UK Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) programme. However, the combined bid may not necessary feature Leonardo’s own M-346 trainer but could feature a different platform. Discovery Air, which supplies fast-jet airborne training services to the Canadian, German and Australian armed forces, has a fleet which includes IAI Westwind 1124s, Dornier Alpha jets and McDonnell Douglas A-4s.  

Laser wars 

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QinetiQ exhibited a mock-up of the future DRAGONFIRE laser directed energy weapon which it is developing as part of the UK DRAGONFIRE consortium. Designed to develop key technologies for a high energy defensive laser weapon system to be ready for testing by 2019, DRAGONFIRE would be capable of detecting and destroying incoming missiles from land, sea and (eventually) air platforms. Headed by MDBA, QinetiQ and Leonardo, the consortium also includes BAE Systems, GKN, Arke and Marshall ADG. 

It takes a drone to catch a drone  

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Netherlands-based Delft Dynamics exhibited the DroneCatcher - a multicopter UAV designed to intercept and catch other drones using an air-launched net. 

New start UK company Drone Security Defence has developed a counter-drone security system which it claims can not only keep drones out of restricted areas but also send them back to where they came from and gather information on the operator for prosecution. 

New ETPS trainers 

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QinetiQ has completed its modernisation of the new Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) fleet with the purchase of two Grob G120TP fixed wing trainers. The Grob aircraft join the fleet together with two new Pilatus PC-21 trainers and four Airbus H125 helicopters. 

Spherical antennae 

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One of the more eye catching exhibits was a military satellite antennae inside a 2.4m diameter sphere. Made by US defence company GATR Technologies, the system can be packed in two airline checkable cases which are much easier to carry into position than a conventional radar dish. The ‘cubic mission solution’ can be set up with 30 minutes and is more stable in high winds and conventional system. 

Burning question 

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US company AvSax (part of the packing specialist group Viking) showcased a fire containment bag designed to deal with lithium battery fires in electronic equipment. AvSax are carried on 1,334 Delta Air Lines aircraft, as well as on other major carriers.  If an electronic device starts to overheat or emit smoke the cabin crew pour water into an AvSax and drop the burning device into the bag. The water activates polymer gel inside the bag causing it to expand around the device and cools the batteries. Should the device go into a thermal runaway uncontrolled chemical reaction, then the AvSax is tough enough to absorb the force.  

EHang ATV to fly in the UK  

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UK company DPM Drone Division exhibited a Chinese-built EHang 184 passenger-carrying autonomous aerial vehicle drone. According to the company, the first UK flight of the EHang is planned for next year at an unspecified location in Wales. 

All this and ships too 

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Among the naval vessels moored in the dock adjacent to the ExCel was Type 23 Duke-class frigate HMS Argyll. The ship is also the first Type 23 to be fitted with Sea Ceptor sea-to-air missiles. HMS Argyll was the location for the formal launch of the Sea Ceptor User Group which includes the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy). The User Group will enable users to share their experiences of introduction of the Sea Ceptor into service and improve the missile’s operational effectiveness. 

DSEI News in brief: 

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* UMS Skeldar announced that it has joined forces with JetLease, a private aircraft leasing company, to launch the first global leasing product for its V-200 UAV.

* Threod Systems announced that its new Stream C tactical unmanned aerial system has now entered its second phase and is expected to complete development in 2018.

* Rockwell Collins announced that it has completed the integration of the first flight avionics system the for French Air Force C-130H Hercules modernisation programme.

* The Nasmyth Group is to manufacture the Spacecraft Transport Container mobile clean room for the Eurostar Neo satellite.

* Leonardo and Thales are to demonstrate their next generation Threat Warner and Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure protection system with the UK Ministry of Defence. 

Advanced helmet 

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BAE Systems’ Military Air & Information business unveiled its new ‘wearable cockpit’ technology concept, designed to revolutionise the training and combat jet cockpit environments of the future. The next-generation demonstrator leverages the adaptability of BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems Striker II helmet-mounted display (HMD) which uses a full-colour HMD to project augmented and virtual reality interactive cockpit displays and controls directly to the pilot’s eyes. The technology is designed to replace conventional cockpit displays and improve pilots’ situational awareness and decision-making, as well as being more easily upgraded. BAE Systems is now looking at supplementing the capabilities of the Striker II HMD with voice, gestures and touch controls.

Other News

BAE Systems and Airbus are developing a large area display (LAD) system for the Eurofighter Typhoon.  The LAD would replace the Typhoon’s current three-multifunction cockpit display with a single unit that would aid the sensor fusion required for the fighter’s new active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. 

The next DSEI exhibition is scheduled to be held from 10-13 September 2019. 

Bill Read
22 September 2017

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