British Defense Secretary: United Kingdom Must Increase its Defense Exports

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
The HMS Sutherland (F81), a Type 23 frigate of the Royal Navy

Photo: Ministry of Defence

LONDON — The United Kingdom must work to grow its defense exports, said the nation’s secretary for defense Sept. 13.

“As we look to life post-Brexit and spread our wings farther across the world, it is high time that we do more to compete for a bigger share of this international export market,” said Sir Michael Fallon during remarks at the Defence and Security Equipment International Conference held at the ExCel in London.

The U.K. already is the second largest defense exporter globally, and has retained the position for the past decade, he said. Last year, the country secured nearly $8 billion U.S. dollars in international orders, he added.

“But it is time now for us to build exportability into our thinking from the off, aligning that with the requirements of our international clients, enabling a more open architecture to our platforms that can plug-and-play with different bits of capability,” he said.

Exports not only strengthen the U.K. defense industry, but they reduce the cost of equipment, allowing customers to purchase more, he noted.

The United Kingdom is working to procure a new light frigate for the Royal Navy, Fallon said. The vessel — known as Type 31e — will replace the general-purpose variants of the service’s aging Type 23 frigates. It is expected that they will come into service by 2023, he added.

The new frigates can cost a maximum of about $332 million, but through competition, Fallon wants the price to come down substantially, he said.

“I want to see the great defense companies represented in these halls this week to lower the cost to us,” he said.

The “E” in Type 31e stands for export, Fallon said. “You have to go back to the 1970s to remember when we last built frigates for another country. We need to change that. We need to remodel the way in which we approach shipbuilding in the future,” he said.

The United Kingdom is also working to increase exports of the Eurofighter Typhoon, Fallon said.

“The United Kingdom and its European partners are fully focused to working with industry to maximize Typhoon’s export potential in the world wide combat jet market,” he said.

The U.K. is looking to sell the aircraft to countries in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, he noted.

“We believe Typhoon is the best aircraft to meet the requirements of our international partners and I was delighted … earlier this month to hear of the first Typhoon delivered” to Oman, he said.

The U.K. government is working closely with its defense industry to help them prosper, Fallon said. Such efforts include the Defence Growth Partnership, which was established in 2012 by former U.K. Prime Minster David Cameron.

“Our Defence Group Partnership is working with industry to anticipate future market opportunities,” he said. Additionally, “we are adopting increasingly a ‘Team UK’ approach — packaging up the vast array of expertise that we have to offer so that international customers looking for solutions in anything from subsurface systems and synthetic environments to persistence surveillance or information systems needn’t hunt around for the right contacts, but can simply go to our Team UK representatives and get the details they require.”

Topics: Air Power, Global Defense Market, International

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