Asian disputes boon for arms firms


Asia’s top aerospace and defense show opens Tuesday in Singapore, with major global arms makers seeking to cash in on rising military spending in China and elsewhere as territorial disputes escalate in the region.

A wide range of air and maritime systems will be showcased at the biennial Singapore Airshow, which will also feature developments in commercial aviation, such as Airbus’ A350-XWB long-range aircraft.

“The Asia-Pacific region is extremely important to us, particularly as we broaden our global focus, and Singapore is a key market,” said David Perry, vice president and chief global business development officer at U.S. weapons firm Northrop Grumman. “Our objective is to continue to . . . provide the most advanced capabilities to help meet the region’s defense and security needs,” he said ahead of the event, which runs until Sunday.

Among Northrop Grumman’s exhibits is a Triton unmanned aircraft system especially adapted for maritime surveillance.

U.S. firm Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-16 fighter, will also have a big presence to promote anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The defense wings of passenger aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus are also exhibiting their latest wares, including unmanned aerial systems.

Among Boeing’s displays is the P-8A Poseidon, which it describes as the world’s most advanced anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare aircraft.

Airbus will display the C-295 versatile tactical transport plane configured for maritime patrols.

Analysts say the balance of military power is gradually shifting to Asia, with countries beefing up their armed forces as their economies grow and regional tensions simmer because of territorial disputes.

“Asia-Pacific is the only region where from 2009 onwards we have seen a steady rise in defense expenditure,” said Craig Caffrey, senior analyst at IHS Jane’s, a defense industry consulting and analysis company.

He said in a report that, based on IHS Jane’s latest projections for defense budgets, the Asia-Pacific’s share of the global budget spend would grow to 28 percent, or $474 billion, by the end of the decade — up from the current 24 percent.

Caffrey said the region, excluding China, will overtake Western Europe in defense spending by 2015 as Australia, India, Japan and South Korea increase their defense budgets.

By 2015, China is forecast to spend $159.6 billion on defense, up from $139.2 billion in 2013.

This will be bigger than the combined defense budgets of Britain, France and Germany projected at $149 billion, it said.

Asian defense spending was 11.6 percent higher in 2013 than in 2010.

On the civilian side of the show, commercial deals potentially worth billions of dollars are expected to be announced.

Vietnam’s first private airline, VietJetAir, is expected to announce the finalization of an order for 62 Airbus A320 planes worth $6.1 billion, an industry source close to the deal said.

An order for 20 Airbus A380 superjumbos worth $8 billion by leasing group Doric Asset Management could also be announced, the source said.

The total value of deals during the show’s 2012 event reached $31 billion, up threefold from 2010, organizers said.