PARIS -- Eurosatory ended the same way it started. Slow. Holding an international land warefare conference is difficult when so many countries have slashed their defense budgets.
Gone are the fancy chalets and elaborate displays except for only the largest companies. Models replaced actual vehicles in certain cases.
That’s not to say the floor wasn’t busy. Executives held meetings to see where their companies could align, and increase the chances they could win one of the few contracts up for bid.
Upgrades, networks, the Middle East and bargains were all themes that reverberated across the show floor. And they were all driven by money, or the lack of it across most of the globe.
The Middle East has long been a theme for defense shows over the past decade. But it was different this time. This year, defense companies preferred to talk about selling to Middle East countries rather than discussing how fast they should ship their weapons for use in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Companies understand military officials can only afford upgrades in most cases, rather than new vehicles. Companies like Rheinmetall Defense displayed upgraded tanks and infantry fighting vehicles that were first built in the 1970s.
Visitors to the show would struggle to not come across a mannequin outfitted with the latest networking kit that often included a ruggedized tablet, smartphone or eye scope. No matter the country or budget, defense leaders know they have to keep ahead of the information technology wave on the battlefield. And the defense industry is only happy to provide the gear for such a transformation.
This is one of the few holes for which the defense industry sees sunlight. Executives understand they face lean years ahead as Europe works through their economic crisis. This show was all about keeping your respective company’s head above water. Those with the money like Saudi Arabia could otherwise find plenty of bargains here at Eurosatory.