Visiting military trade shows in France
Every time I return from France, my American friends who have never been ask me if the French were rude toward me. They have a misconception that French citizens don’t like Americans. After three trips to Paris and other French towns I’ve never found this to be the case.
Whether it was wait staff at a restaurant, shoppers at apothecaries, or trade show personnel at the events I covered there – two Paris Air Shows and most recently Eurosatory this summer – all were polite and welcoming. Even the protesters outside Eurosatory were friendly as they cautioned me against being a warmonger with their pamphlets, t-shirts, and posters. Their efforts were in vain, but they were nice about it.
I always try to speak the language and fail miserably, but the French natives appreciate the effort just as we do when they try their hand at English in our country.
However, inside Eurosatory some U.S. items were not as welcome as mild-mannered, American trade journalists. I speak of those components and systems controlled under the International Traffic Arms Regulations (ITAR). Many Eurosatory exhibitors were doing whatever they could to let the world know their systems and solutions were not tainted by U.S. components. It seemed as if every other booth – be it French, German, and even the British – advertised that they were ITAR-free or U.S. component-free.
It’s not that the U.S. technology is substandard – quite the opposite. The problem is that many international military programs shy away from doing business with U.S. companies because of the difficulties in dealing with U.S. export regulations. Even U.S. companies with products licensed for export face fierce competition and a perception – fair or not – that despite their export license, doing business with them is too risky. That said if a U.S. company has its export paperwork in order or has enough capital to have manufacturing overseas they can still compete.
Many are competing quite well and could be found throughout the American Pavilion and in the Embedded Computing Pavilion. Yes, a defense show in Europe carved out exhibit space for embedded computing. A strong sign that the software and hardware systems and components we cover in this publication are critical to current and future defense electronic systems. Companies in this section included: Ecrin Systems, Techway, Kontron, GE Intelligent Platforms, Argon Computing Corp., Lemco, among others.
During my last day at Eurosatory I took in the outdoor demonstrations. Small UAVs, weapons systems, armored vehicles, guns, etc., were paraded out and demonstrated to a packed grandstand of third world military brass, defense contractors, journalists, arms merchants, and many other fans of things that go boom. They even simulated a riot with protesters with clubs up against armored police vehicles and well-armed first responders. At that point every attendee became a journalist, capturing these rare moments with their smartphones.
A notable demo was of the Talon gyro-stabilized weapon mount from Paradigm SRP used on an Argo all terrain vehicle (pictured). Paradigm was founded by retired Special Operations personnel who wanted to stabilize weapons as efficiently as infrared payloads are stabilized on helicopters.
Other highlights included trying out a ground vehicle demo fueled by COTS software from Presagis at the D-BOX booth; talking GPS jamming with Novatel; a helmet camera from Rapid that is mounted via Velcro; and the Mercedes military vehicle stand. Imagine taking the kids to the pool in an armored Mercedes truck.
The boldest product description of the week came from Elmo Motion Control owner and CEO Haim Monhait, who told me his Gold Bee servo drive was not only a hot new product, but the “eighth wonder of the world.”
Traffic was slow the first day due to a train strike, and according to one exhibitor “student exams that kept people away.” Never heard that one before. Despite the all-nighters being pulled by the university crowd, attendance improved the second and third days of the show.
While not as big as the Paris Air Show, Eurosatory was much larger than a similar land warfare event held every year in Washington – AUSA. It also had a better press room. AUSA’s media relations team is quite friendly, but they can’t compete with the Eurosatory facilities. Media had their own entrance, a work area with large monitors and plenty of space, their own mailroom, and a bar for press only. Can’t get more accommodating than that.