• The Defence and Security Equipment International show this year included cutting-edge products by big names like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Thales and Rolls Royce.
  • Our media analysis found that the Global Combat Air Programme between the UK, Japan and Italy was the main coverage driver, making companies working on the project such as Mitsubishi and Leonardo the most influential organisations in the debate.
  • Other stories that gained traction in our media sample were Israel’s first-ever national pavilion and the anti-war protests outside the venue.

View a one-page infographic summary of the analysis

Held for the second time since 2019, the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2023 show saw an escalated scale, featuring 250 military equipment companies from 65 countries, an increase of about 100 companies from the 2019 level.

The show included big names like BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Thales and Rolls Royce, which displayed the most cutting-edge products and technologies in defence.

To see what stood out in the DSEI media debate, we analysed 505 English-language articles published in the last month. Here are our main findings:

1. The Global Combat Air Programme took centre stage 

Many publications reported that DSEI Japan took off on a global note and amidst partnership galore.

Certainly, the buzzword in the media was “partnership”, with all eyes being on the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) – a multinational initiative led by the United Kingdom, Japan, and Italy to develop a sixth-generation stealth fighter. This is what made Partnerships the main topic in the debate:

The main news coverage driver around the conference was Japan, the UK and Italy announcing the signing of a collaboration agreement as part of the Global Combat Air Programme. A new-generation fighter jet, jointly developed by these countries, was highlighted in the showroom of the fair, where visitors could experience a simulated operation.

The most influential companies in the conversation were also the ones collaborating on the jet. We determine an organisation’s media impact in the context of a topic by looking at its media influence score calculated in terms of coverage by high-profile media outlets, topic relevancy score measuring its contextual relevance, and media visibility as measured by the number of mentions.

Mitsubishi Electric representing Japan, Leonardo UK representing the UK and both Leonardo and Elettronica representing Italy, gained their influence by forging a closer business relationship and assessing appropriate commercial and international operating models, readying the partners for the next stage of the GCAP programme.

Media outlets also reported on industry partners which made several collaboration agreements furthering the work of the Global Combat Air programme during the conference. For instance, BAE Systems, MHI and Leonardo announced they continue to work closely together on the next steps in the Global Combat Air Programme with a shared ambition for a joint industrial arrangement, while Rolls-Royce, IHI and Avio Aero set out the terms under which they will pool their expertise to design, manufacture and test a full-scale future combat engine demonstrator.

2. Spokespeople emphasised long-term industry collaboration

Although the meeting didn’t produce any major fresh agreement, it was viewed by many journalists as a boost of political backing for collaboration.

The most influential spokesperson in the debate, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, was cited as discussing the importance of long-term industry partnerships for the international initiative.

Wallace’s most viral quote was that “GCAP is not going to be a love affair, it’s going to be a marriage.” He also added that DSEI is going to unlock paths and new technologies, new platforms, export markets and potential new partners, but lock in a strategic partnership of liberal open democracies who believe in the rule of law and upholding international values across the world that are threatened so strongly today.

Some outlets noted that most applauded was the speech of Volodymyr Havrylov, Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine. Not only does he have extensive diplomatic experience as a Defense Attaché at the Embassies of Ukraine in the United States, the United Kingdom and Romania but also is a superannuated Major General. And above all the world is with him. With the war between Russia & Ukraine seeing no end in sight, Havrylov thanked Japan and the rest of the world for their support.

3. Israel opens first-ever national pavilion

Another highlight in the DSEI media debate was SIBAT, The International Defense Cooperation Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense, inaugurating its Israeli Pavillion. This came after SIBAT inaugurated its first-ever national pavilion at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in the United Arab Emirates in February.

Fourteen Israeli defence industries presented their products at the event, including unmanned aerial systems, rocket and missile systems and more.

The ones that attracted particular media attention were Elbit Systems, Nippon Aircraft Supply (NAS) and Itochu Aviation, which signed a strategic cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote mutual cooperation for a range of solutions between the companies. This cooperation aimed to address the growing Japanese interest in the field of defence while fully aligned with the local requirements that Elbit Systems provides Japan-based production and qualities.

Other Israeli companies that made a blip on the media radar were Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and RT Aerostat Systems, which unveiled the Skystar ResQCell, a cellular geolocation-mounted aerostat, which allows rescuers to quickly locate missing and trapped people after any disaster.

4. Collaborations reached space

The topic of Partnerships went beyond the skies and reached space – another major news announcement in our media sample was that Britain and Japan agreed to cooperate in space, the latest move in a deepening of defence ties between the two countries which are building a new fighter jet together.

The UK’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, and Japan’s Chief of Staff of the Koku-Kietai, General Shunji Izutsu, signed a Terms of Reference document, establishing a framework for Space Engagement Talks, which will facilitate future cooperation between the Koku-Jietai, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and UK Space Command.

Mike Wigston was quoted as saying that the space domain is critical to our shared security and prosperity, and a vital area of cooperation, underpinned by UK Space Command and the Koku-Jietai.

5. Protesters rallied against Japan’s increasing arms trade

But not everything was about cooperation in the DSEI media debate – many publications reported that hundreds of Japanese gathered outside the venue of the military equipment fair, to protest Japan’s move to intensify its arms trade.

More than 300 people shouted slogans at the gathering, which was followed by a protest speech. The crowd lay on the ground after the speech, in an attempt to oppose the trade of weapons, in a country that boasts of “exclusive defence” using the “body language of death.”

Koji Sugihara, a representative of the Network Against Japan Arms Trade, became one of the most influential spokespeople in the conversation, as many outlets cited her statement that after 2027, Japan’s defence spending will account for two per cent of its gross domestic products, making it the world’s third largest defence-spending nation.

Similarly, Kimie Nakamura, a member of the Chiba City Assembly, earned her influence by noting that it makes people feel very dangerous that a country that boasts of ‘exclusive defence’ is showing weapons of destruction, while actively developing a new generation of a fighter jet with Britain and Italy

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