21 April 2017

The MOD is open for business again

‘Accelerator’ project intended to encourage innovation but may also encourage acquisitions

Historically, defence technologies used to lead development of civilian technologies. However, military research and development (R&D) budgets have been constrained over the past five years so we have seen civilian technologies leading the way, particularly in the communications sphere. I was therefore encouraged to read about the UK MOD’s new ‘Accelerator’ programme, which funds novel, high-risk and high-potential benefit research to develop new capabilities for UK defence and security.

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29 March 2017

China to build UAVs in Saudi Arabia

UK’s biggest defence export market looks east

Saudi Arabia has signed a strategic partnership with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) in order to establish the manufacturing of Chinese Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in Saudi Arabia. This announcement is significant for two reasons; first it shows that Chinese defence companies are now competing with their western peers, and second it will challenge the UK Government to become comfortable with Chinese made military hardware operating alongside UK built military aircraft.

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1 March 2017

Boeing comes to Sheffield

The US aerospace giant is spreading its wings into Europe

Last week, Boeing announced it would be opening its first ever manufacturing facility in Europe. Where will it be I hear you ask? Sheffield. I imagine that isn’t what you were expecting. I certainly wasn’t. The decision is significant for two reasons; what it says about Boeing’s relationship with Europe, and what it says about UK industrial capability.

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19 January 2017

2017…the year of the rooster, Trump and flying cars

What does the year have in store for Aerospace & Defence stocks?

The Aerospace & Defence sector has two distinct sides to it, with civil aerospace and defence often proffering very different investment narratives. Historically, terrorism and political instability have tended to cause the two sides of the sector to diverge, with defence valuations surging and civil valuations falling. This happened most notably after 9/11 in 2001. At the end of 2016 though, a year defined by terror attacks and political turmoil, the situation was quite different. Defence stocks were the stand out performers during last year, driven initially by the fact global defence spending is now growing, having been in decline from 2011 – 2015, and more latterly by Donald Trump’s US election victory. However, civil stocks have also performed well. Although there have been a high number of terror attacks during 2016, improved airport security measures have forced terrorists to seek new targets and so aerospace stocks have been largely unaffected, and in fact have continued to benefit from the structural growth of passengers numbers which continues to drive output growth. So what does 2017 have in store for aerospace and defence?

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27 October 2016

Consolidation in the Cyber market

Who will benefit from the super nomal levels of forecast growth?

The global Cyber attack last Friday is the latest stark reminder of how the defence and security market is changing. Attacks do not have to be physical in order to cause harm. Cyber attacks have the potential to be fatal or economically disastrous in just the same way as conventional warfare. As President Obama said on Monday “One of the biggest challenges for the next President, and the President after that is going to be how do we continue to get all the benefits of cyberspace but protect our finances, protect our privacy”. In a world where growth is hard to come by, new forecasts see the Cyber Security market growing 12-15% year on year until 2021. But is it clear what the products of the future will look like? And can we discern which protagonists will win market share?

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18 October 2016

Innovation in the defence industry

Is it industry or the the MOD that is too old to innovate?

There is uproar in the upper echelons of the defence industry. Last month Tony Douglas, CEO of the government’s Defence Equipment and Support group (DE&S) reportedly berated senior defence industry executives for all being over forty-five, implying that they are too old to be innovative. Ironically, in my previous blog ‘Brave new world for defence industry’ I highlighted that it is the Government’s cost cutting that is jeopardising long term innovation. So is Mr Douglas’ criticism fair? 

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14 October 2016

Brave new world for defence manufacturing

Hundreds of jobs at risk at GKN Yeovil

Last Friday GKN announced that it may have to “close or significantly downsize” its Yeovil site which employs 227 people. A statement from the company blamed the decision by Leonardo Helicopters to relocate all future A159 Wild Cat helicopter assembly away from the GKN Yeovil site to one of their own facilities. However, the story is more complicated than that and it raises the emotive debate of how much the Government is willing to invest in order to preserve the UK defence industry?

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5 October 2016

Do tanks have a future?

A look at how armour is evolving

Last month the British Army caused traffic chaos in London by driving a replica First World War tank and a modern Challenger tank around Trafalgar Square. This impressive, yet slightly anti-social display was to commemorate one hundred years of tank service. Seeing these two goliaths of warfare side by side, it struck me that whilst major technological advances have been made over the past century, a modern tank still looks remarkably similar to its predecessor. It made me question whether tanks one hundred years on will still look so similar? Or whether in fact modern warfare no longer needs tanks? These are questions that are likely to be preoccupying the military vehicle manufacturers such as General Dynamics, BAE Systems and Nexter.

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15 September 2016

The ‘special’ relationship?

Carter and Trump's speeches raise big questions about US and UK defence

Events of the past week have raised some fascinating questions about the ‘special relationship’ between the United States and the United Kingdom. Firstly we saw Ash Carter (US Secretary of Defense) hold Theresa May and Michael Fallon’s feet to the fire to ensure the UK supports the US in its role as global policeman, and continues to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Subsequently Donald Trump set out his plans to increase the size of the US military without any explanation of how he would fund it. So what do these two acts of showmanship actually mean for the defence landscape?

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6 September 2016

Does a smaller military present an opportunity for industry?

MOD statistics show significant troop shortfall

Last month’s UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel statistics show the UK Armed Forces have a personnel deficit of 4.1%, and strikingly the number of trained soldiers in the Army is at its lowest since 1750. The doomsayers note that this recruitment crisis means the UK would struggle to respond to a major crisis. However, could this not provide an interesting opportunity for the defence industry to show how the right equipment means you do not need as many troops?

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9 August 2016

Common sense in UK defence?

The UK MOD is to buy its new fleet of Apaches directly from Boeing

In my blog last week I highlighted the calamitous processes, and often illogical decisions that characterise defence procurement. However, the announcement during the Farnborough Air Show that the MOD will buy 50 AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters from Boeing may well be turn out to be one of the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) most sensible decisions yet.

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27 July 2016

The summer of hate

The impact of terrorism on the Aerospace & Defence sector

An article in the press today described the summer of 2016 as the “summer of hate”.  The relentless pace of the attacks has invoked terror into the minds of ordinary people and politicians have been forced to make frequent declarations of their determination to protect their citizens.  It therefore seems logical to me that the summer of 2016 will be one which shapes the near term future for Aerospace and Defence companies.

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15 July 2016

Full speed ahead for Successor

UK's nuclear deterrent looks assured with May as PM

On Wednesday evening, Theresa May was asked to write her orders for how the military should react in the event of nuclear war. Not exactly the easiest first few hours in a new job and probably cause for a sleepless night. However, the executives at the top of the UK defence industry will probably have slept a little more soundly as the future of Trident finally looks secure under her leadership.

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8 July 2016

Civil wars abating

Farnborough Airshow Preview 2016

Next Monday sees the start of the week long Farnborough Airshow which typically heralds a flurry of news in the sector. We expect the main talking points to be:

- A lack of headline grabbing aircraft orders

- Will Airbus and / or Boeing commit to a new aircraft?

- Airbus’ production issues to come under scrutiny

- F-35B to be the highlight of the flying display

- A focus on innovation

- Will Farnborough survive in a post Brexit UK

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5 July 2016

Can aerospace & defence weather Brexit

Impact of lower GDP growth on the aerospace & defence industry

I am a firm believer that GDP growth is the most important driver behind the health of the aerospace & defence sector. A strong economy increases people’s propensity to travel, and defence budgets are set as a percentage of GDP. I acknowledge that the two sides of the sector are both affected by a number of other factors (the oil price, new technologies, geopolitical tensions, etc) and both industries are global. However, the Treasury’s projection that in two years’ time UK GDP will be 3.6% lower than if we had remained in the EU forces me to pause for thought as to the possible impact of Brexit on the sector over the long term.

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