DSEI 2021 – Live at Last

By David Oliver

The world’s largest and most important defence equipment trade show, DSEI is a showcase not only for emphasis on what is best in UK defence technology and innovation but it brings together potential and existing strategic partners, international governments and defence companies. The four-day event offers a unique opportunity for the military and industry to meet and forge relationships that will lead to future collaboration, partnerships and cooperation that move the ideals and agenda of collective global defence and security.

Six months ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, defence exhibitions worldwide had been either cancelled or postponed and DSEI’s survival was under review. Held every two years at London’s Excel Centre, DSEI 2021 opened its doors on Tuesday having attracted some 780 companies to attend. However, that is half the number that attended the show in 2019 and this year’s event has been limited in size due to the UK government’s Covid guidelines.

All exhibitors were requested to review their stands, taking into account social distancing and cleaning measures and each stand had to submit layouts and an assessment for checks in advance. Overseas visitors have had to provide proof of a PCR negative result on arrival to the UK, to enable them to gain entry to DSEI for 48 hours after their arrival. Also this documentation should be in English.

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In spite of the fewer numbers attending, the organisers of DSEI 2021 have been able to put together a comprehensive programme of live seminars, demonstrations, and delegation visits.

Getting through the required ID, Press Pass and Covid checks took up to a two hour wait in pouring rain which dampened the spirits of exhibitors, visitors and the media. The weather was also responsible for cancelling the Red Arrows flypast at the opening ceremony.

However, when the show got going DSEI 2021 has put integration in the spotlight as the UK Ministry of Defence and the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and UK Strategic Command work to develop and maintain organic integration at all levels and across all domains. Under the theme of ‘Integrated Response to Future Threats’ DSEI 2021 has been shaped to support this strategic shift with input from industry, academia, international partners and delegates. To highlight these themes, the exhibition has been divided into four zones.

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The Aerospace Zone has a capability area that services the entire aerospace supply chain. The Zone has a crucial focus on FCAS and the Combat Air Strategy, combining manned, unmanned and space capability, with the Space Hub.

DSEI’s Land Zone is the largest and fastest growing Zone featuring the latest in weapons, ammunitions and equipment. Supported by the British Army, the Land Zone is a key platform to see first-hand the latest developments and innovations from international exhibitors.

The Naval Zone at DSEI is an interactive showcase of the latest vessels and technology where buyers, procurement managers, R&D or those looking to penetrate the naval market can do business.

The Security Zone at DSEI is a showcase of security equipment, technologies, strategies and systems to counter priority threats, such as cyber attacks as well as border, infrastructure, crowd and crisis security

There is also a Joint Zone that features the latest products and innovations servicing the whole Defence and Security Community.

Photos courtesy DSEI and D. Oliver