Arms fairs and the footprint of EADS

Arms fairs are the oil that keeps the arms trade machine running. International exhibitions are the ideal show for anything the military needs, as well as anything it did not know it needed but which has been developed and thus is desirable. Arms fairs are the playgrounds where big business needs to persuade military delegations of the ‘need’ to buy their innovative killing machines.

All year round there are arms shows taking place, in virtually every corner of the world. Two recent major arms fairs were the KADEX expo in Kazakhstan and the SOFEX special operations fair in Jordan, and at both fairs EADS was very visibly present.

In Kazakhstan, EADS was most successful in concluding a series of contracts at the country’s second arms fair ever.

The former Soviet Republic is no longer simply buying from Russia. “We are buying the best”, according to the deputy defence minister. With a contract for two and possibly eight C295 military transport aircraft, Airbus Military was happy to confirm that Kazakh position.

Last year, the Kazakhs ordered six EC145 helicopters under a package deal that should eventually cover 45 of the multi-role helicopters – eight of which were ordered at KADEX.

A third EADS contract was for twenty of Eurocopter’s EC725 Super Cougar helicopters have been ordered by the oil and mineral rich central Asian country. The deal is worth an estimated 650-750 million euro.

The big deals as well as the presence of most of the world’s major arms producers in Kazakhstan show a shifting focus to new supply markets, which contrary to Europe, do not suffer an economic crisis, thanks to a booming economy based on fossil fuels.

Despite EU common rules on arms exports, the authoritarian and sometimes violent government of Kazakhstan turns out to be an acceptable military trade partner. Earlier this year sixteen people were killed as striking oil workers clashed with security forces. The oil strikes came just as Western energy companies were making decisions on long-term investments worth about $154 billion in a massive new Caspian Sea oil field known as Kashagan.

At Jordan’s SOFEX arms show, Eurocopter, the helicopter branch of EADS, showed a collection of its rotor craft, including a Eurocopter EC635 of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, as well as some scale models.

“With an extensive footprint in Arab nations and the company’s commitment to providing top-level support, Eurocopter looks forward to continuing its role as a preferred helicopter supplier for the full spectrum of military and civilian use”, according to an EADS press release for the show. “Designed and equipped with the latest technology, our helicopters are able to perform their missions in the most severe operational environments and demanding situations.” While Jordan so far has not seen the massive scale and the and persistence of demonstrators demanding democratic reform, that of course is no guarantee for the future.

Right after SOFEX ended, Jordan hosted Eager Lion 2012, said to be the largest military exercises in the Middle East in ten years, focusing on “irregular warfare” – a term often used for counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism operations.

The next major arms fair where EADS will expose its merchandise will be the Eurosatory land forces show, just outside Paris, in June. It is the largest exhibition of the year, hosting nearly 1,400 arms producers. Last time 126 official delegations from 73 countries visited Eurosatory.

[FS, 21 May 2012]

PS: This is another EADS blog in the run-up to protests against the EADS AGM in Amsterdam on 31 May.