Eurosatory Kicks Off Outside Paris This June
Happening next week is the Cannes Film Festival for the global arms industry, except all the glamour is confined outside Paris. This is Eurosatory 2016. It’s Western Europe’s most prestigious arms show and a shameless advertisement for weapons made in France.
Held in the world class Paris Nord Villepinte, a sprawling venue whose event calendar includes a manga-themed Japan Expo, thousands are expected to ogle lethal technology from June 13 to 17. Given how arms shows barely last three days, Eurosatory’s length (an entire work week) emphasizes the important business transacted by its exhibitors and their customers.
21st Century Asian Arms Race is a media partner for Eurasotory 2016.
May and June are the best times of year for arms shows. Barely a week into this month and a handful of vital ones have just taken place such as KADEX or Undersea Defence Technology or the Berlin Air Show.
Eurosatory was launched in 1992 as a post-Cold War exhibition catering to the rest of the world. At the time it was a re-branded expansion of the original Satory–an exclusive French arms show dating back to the 1960s. The first Satories were by-invitation markets for “ground equipment,” i.e. guns and vehicles, held in the Satory army base near the Versailles palace.
France emerged as a leading arms exporter in the latter half of the 20th century with a clientele stretching from South Asia to Latin America. Beginning in the 1950s it was AMX tanks, Panhard armored cars, mortars and howitzers, and Mirage jets that endeared various warring nations to Paris.
In 1996 the Russian Federation joined Eurosatory and gun designer Mikhail Kalashnikov was received as a special guest. By 2002 the event moved to its current home in Nord Villepinte. Since then Eurosatory’s organizer Coges, whose staff now organizes similar arms shows in Africa and Latin America, has committed itself to absorbing greater and greater turnouts for its flagship.
Eurosatory’s resulting fame is slowly pushing it toward serious cultural relevance. More than a darling for the arms industry press, since 2014 French Quakers have been trying to shut it down on moral grounds.
This June a reported 1,572 exhibitors, including the world’s top 25 defense contractors spread among 33 national pavilions, are making their presence felt in Nord Villepinte. These exhibitors will attract an estimated 57,000 visitors, hundreds of journalists, and 200 delegations. The last category are often high ranking foreign military officers on junkets.
In 2014 some 2,000 guests from 59 different countries were invited. The sheer human volume expected to turn up this year may test the venue’s capacity despite its impressive constellation of nearby restaurants, hotels, and means for mass transit.
A highlight of Eurosatory are live demonstrations of weapons and tactics. This is where the showbiz aspect of the arms business erupts on a ridiculous scale. During the last Eurosatory, for example, a rock-strewn settlement of crude huts–perhaps a stand-in for African badlands–was mock assaulted by special forces in their tactical vehicles. It was pretend war for a mixed audience.
Eurosatory 2016 might eclipse its predecessor. Not just in scale or the sheer prestige involved but for the dibs on cutting-edge weaponry. One exhibitor, Germany’s Rheinmetall, could unveil a new main battle tank or at least its main gun. This is seen as a proper response to Russia’s T-14 Armata.
By the way, the Russians intend to make their presence felt in Eurosatory. So will the Chinese.
Eurosatory’s appeal is becoming so ridiculous other arms shows like ISDEF from Israel, DSA from Malaysia, and ADEX from Azerbaijan, are exhibiting themselves in Eurosatory to draw the same crowds the following year. This is ample proof the global arms industry is a circus for discerning adults.
Update (6-17-2016): At the conclusion of Eurosatory on Friday afternoon the organizers published its official numbers. 55,500 attended from 152 different countries. 1,018 accredited journalists provided coverage during the five-day exhibition and 213 delegations took part, including 13 defense ministers and 19 armed forces chiefs of staff. The organizer noted the growing participation among Asian firms and the impact of robotics and automation on current technology.