07 Aug 2023

GCAP Partnership to Take Centre Stage at DSEI Show

Craig Hoyle
GCAP Partnership to Take Centre Stage at DSEI Show

With the UK’s cross-domain DSEI show to open its doors in just over five weeks’ time, we look ahead to some of the event’s likely highlights.

To be staged at the ExCel exhibition centre in London from 12-15 September, the biennial show’s theme is ‘Achieving an integrated force’, with interests spanning five zones: aerospace, land, naval, joint, and security.

A confirmed total of more than 1,050 fixed exhibitors will be taking part, including participants to appear within 36 international pavilions. Delegations from over 90 countries will also visit the event, along with more than 2,200 VIP attendees from around the world.

Taking pride of place in the boulevard area between ExCel’s two giant halls will be an exhibit promoting the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) involving Italy, Japan and the UK. The partner nations in December 2022 cemented their pact to collaboratively develop a future combat air system, including a so-called sixth-generation manned fighter and supporting technologies.

Also during the show, the GCAP partner nations’ international programme directors will for the first time speak together on the same panel, to outline the work performed so far and their future priorities. To take place on 13 September, the discussion will also include senior officials for key industry partners BAE Systems, Leonardo and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

“There is something real and really tangible about how this is going to go,” DSEI’s senior air advisor Gary Waterfall tells FlightGlobal of the trilateral combat air project.

“It’s as much about a political shift in direction from the nations to harness themselves together to produce a platform in the mid-2030s,” he says. “The programme has now got a great degree of certainty attached to it,” he adds.

After attendance at its 2021 version was impacted by international travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, show organiser Clarion Events Defence & Security stresses that this year’s gathering will be “back to the footplate of 2019”. This includes a doubling in attendance by North American exhibitors, and the addition of more than 230 first-time participants – mostly from Europe, the UK and the USA.



As DSEI’s aerospace domain media partner, FlightGlobal will be reporting from the event, which the show’s organiser notes will feature a major increase in both the air and space sectors. It also points out that “20 out of the 20 big primes” will be exhibiting.

Ukrainian industry also has been invited to exhibit at the show.

Referring to the integrated force theme, Waterfall notes:

“That’s joining up everybody – it’s not just about across-domain in the UK as a multi-domain integration. It’s also within the UK industry base, from the big primes down to the SMEs. It’s also linking up UK industry and UK government for holistic defence and security. And then if that’s not enough of a challenge, it’s also linking up internationally as well.”

Meanwhile, with sustainability being another key subject area – including as the UK Royal Air Force works towards a target of achieving net-zero status by 2040 – he notes: “Now we are actually getting capabilities that are better than carbon-heavy alternatives. You can actually have sustainable aviation and deliver operational advantage.”

Speaking in early July, event director Grant Burgham noted that for organiser Clarion, DSEI will serve as “a springboard” to improve sustainability at its events. “We are going to make sure that our exhibitors are also trying to drive sustainability, even down to everything that they hand out,” he adds.

“There has been tremendous growth across the whole event,” Burgham says of the 2023 event, noting that its Future Tech and Space hubs have doubled and trebled in size respectively since the last version. “This is the most significant [show] in its 24-year history,” he adds.

“I don’t see it as a UK show – it’s a global event” Burgham says. “If you want to do business in the UK then DSEI is the place to come to.”

And he notes that with the ExCeL centre in the early stages of construction on a 25,000m² (270,000ft²) extension to its east end, “it’s exciting for the growth of DSEI” from its 2025 iteration onwards.


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