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What Happens During An Arms Show?

October 31, 2014

Arms Show 5.56mm Ammunition

Each year, hundreds of events take place around the world where soldiers and defense contractors do business.

This is an arms show. An arms shows is the same as a trade show, except the former serves a different clientele.

Just last week, Moscow’s storied VDNH convention center hosted the 18th Interpolitex, a four-day event that drew thousands of visitors.

Interpolitex is when Russian and foreign vendors showcase technology, vehicles, and weapons for Russia’s powerful domestic security establishment.

It’s no different from ISDEF, Expodefensa, DSEi, to name a few other arms shows.

What sets arms shows apart from trade shows, however, (and this is obvious) are the customers.

Most trade shows, whatever the industry, encompass the private sector, with little direct participation by the government.

Arms shows, on the other hand, cater to governments and are sometimes organized by governments.

Despite the negative buzz surrounding the “global arms trade” the overwhelming majority of arms deals are legal and not secret.

The arms trade might have an international scope but much of the business is dominated by 20 giant corporations.*

Why Are They Needed?

Arms shows are useful because governments, not terrorist groups or rebel armies, have the biggest appetite for weapons.

So instead of attracting shady characters, modern arms shows are engaging, entertaining, and very transparent.

No different from regular trade shows, actually.

And since trade shows are occasions for companies to engage their customers, defense contractors dedicate an entire year’s worth of scheduling for various arms shows–the trade shows of the weapons business.

It’s an excellent strategy. By participating in a trade show a company’s employees can:

  • Launch new products
  • Keep abreast of industry trends
  • Learn about the competition
  • Attend seminars and exchange notes
  • Close lucrative deals
  • Network with other professionals
  • Enjoy after hours socializing
  • Meet journalists and the public
  • Promote its brands

Ditto arms shows.

In their current form, modern trade shows have multiple components. This means the logistics for a major event like the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas reaches intimidating proportions.

It’s the same with arms shows, where big names like Rheinmetall or Airbus occupy massive amounts of floor space to display their latest weapons.

Spectacle is essential too.

During the Farnborough International Airshow, for example, the organizers endear themselves to the public by staging an airplane acrobatics display.

France Milipol 2011

An arms show in France. Not exactly a grim, shadowy affair. It’s bustling, crowded, and teeming with onlookers. It’s no different from most conventions, except arms shows are where governments stock up on weaponry and the tech needed to operate such.

A Lot Happens

Arms shows can be over the top. But even when commandos play act their jobs in mock battles, the theatrics are just a single component of a grand design.

During an arms show many smaller events take place like cocktails, B2B meetings, lectures and discussions. Not to mention the press conferences, intimate brokering in small enclosures, and perhaps a sumptuous dinner or two.

Interactions within arms shows are often congenial. People are friendly, warm, smiling, offering calling cards, brochures, and small tokens.

Most important, a lot of critical insider information is free-flowing and unguarded.

With bullish markets like the MENA (Middle East and North Africa), Eastern Europe and the Baltic, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America, arms shows today have endless prospects.

Curious? Why not visit an arms show near you?

* These are the world’s most prominent defense contractors according to SIPRI:

  1. Lockheed Martin (USA)
  2. Boeing (USA)
  3. BAE Systems (USA)
  4. Raytheon (USA)
  5. General Dynamics (USA)
  6. Northrop Grumman (USA)
  7. EADS (EU)
  8. United Technologies (USA)
  9. Finmeccanica (Italy)
  10. BAE Systems Inc. (UK)
  11. Thales (France)
  12. SAIC (USA)
  13. Huntington Ingalls Industries (USA)
  14. Almaz-Antei (Russia)
  15. Safran  (France)
  16. Honeywell (USA)
  17. Sikorsky (USA)
  18. United Aircraft Corporation (Russia)
  19. General Electric (USA)
  20. MBDA (France)
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