Is Farnborough Airshow Losing its Defence Appeal? 

Steve Lynes from Sandshurst, United Kingdom, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Farnborough International Airshow was the melting pot for all domains of the aviation industry from commercial, business aviation, and general aviation to the military. It seems that this year, it may be losing its military and defence appeal to global and UK players.

Events such as the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and the Global Air & Space Chief’s Conference are now stealing the defence and military scene from Farnborough Air Show. These two conferences now attract leading senior officials from around the world, which is set to triumph over the number of visits to the Farnborough Air Show. 

For senior government and military officials, London is the starting place for such related conferences. For many of them, the period starts with the conference in London that is organised by The Air and Space Power Association and the UK Royal Air Force which greatly contributes to the events.

This year there are fewer than 450 attendees who have registered, with 60 air force chiefs and their entourages attending the event alone. Despite the world adapting and living along with COVID, much of the event is done so hybrid, meaning that many would-be attendees are joining through social media and video live streams.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding the geopolitical world status, one would expect military aviation to shine in this year’s Farnborough Air Show, but it is quieter than usual. The conference themed will include hybrid warfare, multi-domain operations, information superiority, ethics and morals, and sustainability. 

At the Air Show, there will be notable speakers who will be heavy weights with a high degree of expertise in the industry. This consists of  15 senior Royal Air Force (UK) leaders, the chief of the United States  Air Force, and many amongst the academic world.

Also, industry representatives from Airbus Defence & Space, BAE Systems, Leonardo, Lockheed Martin, and Microsoft will also take part in the defence discussion. 

After the Farnborough Airshow has concluded, most defence and military delegates will move on to the RIAT, which will be held at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. RIAT began as an event organised by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. Today, it is now the world’s largest military air show spanning over 3 days.

RIAT began slowly evolving from air shows to a corporate event attracting lots of players in the defence world. More than 30 related companies are finding RIAT easier than Farnborough as they cater to a more direct customer base. 

Despite Farnborough slowly losing its military appeal to shows like RIAT, it still nevertheless is one of the most important and well-known aviation shows in the world, second to the Paris Air Show size-wise.

This year’s Farnborough Airshow is expected to draw up to 80,000 visitors and 1,000 exhibitors around the globe.

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