• David Watson at DSEI. Credit: David Jones
    David Watson at DSEI. Credit: David Jones

The Australians have made their presence felt at DSEI, the world's largest defence suppliers expo, hosted by Clarion Events and held at the ExCeL Centre, Docklands, London.

The building is 1.2 km long, with a train station at each end and comprising twenty standard-sized exposition halls, ten each side, separated by a 35m wide boulevard and shops.

Team Defence Australia's team of 62 companies was organised by TDA Director Dr Dylan Nagle and Nathaniel Purdy, and superbly led by Chef de Mission and immediate past Chief of Navy, VADM (Retd) Tim Barrett.

The opening salvos were fired at an Innovation and Industry day followed by a formal reception, all held at Australia House and attended by some 200 delegates and Aussie industry exporters.

Using a familiar day-formula, with keynote speakers mixed with several keynote panellists, David Warren, Senior Trade Advisor at Austrade opened proceedings and introduced Acting High Commissioner for Australia, Matt Anderson.

Warren spoke about the developing defence-based trade relationship between Australia and the UK, noting the melding of ideas and values, and commented on the growth paths developed under projects involving many friendly nations, such as Sea 1000 and Naval Group in France; Sea 1180 and Luerssen in Germany, and Sea 5000 and BAE. All are projects reflecting a new age, a new dawning of ways to work collaboratively.

These thoughts were reinforced by the Melissa Price, Minister for Defence Industry and Member for Durack, a seat many times the size of England. Minister Price also commented on the extraordinary influences that Australian SMEs have made in significant defence projects. These include companies such as Craig International Ballistics and their range of body armour and now shortlisted on the UK MOD's Under £100m projects and Melbourne's Defence-X and their work on larger projects such as the Project Wedgetail.

DepSec of CASG MAJGEN (ret) Tony Fraser continued the same theme, and had many a word to say on the subject of sustainment. Fraser commented that inventing or building or buying a capability was one thing, but keeping it fully operational was quite another. A project might cost us a mere $1.7bn in capital acquisition but another $12bn in sustainment.

Moreover, we've had a massive increase in the one thing we don't do, and that's aerospace construction, especially in the arena of the JSF. And yet we've done this at that bottom of the mining-cycle, but at close to the top of the AU-US dollar ratio, so now, in effect, we can buy three F-35As for the old price of two.

Fraser further commented on the development of the SMART Buyer Program, which is to some a way to by-pass any form of competition but to others, an opportunity for a bespoke supplier to be recognised for what they offer.

Former Minister for Defence David Johnston and now Australia's Defence Export Advocate congratulated Col (ret) Gabby Costigan, CEO of BAE on her work to secure the Type 26 as RAN’s future frigate, noting the commitment to Australia now made by BAE.

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