A Defense Fair in the City of Love

By Philippe Schockweiler

With the conflict in Ukraine, far from winding down, arms manufacturers, sub-contractors, military delegations and politicians from the world over met in Paris last week for the Eurosatory Defense Fair, in the light of international arms sales skyrocketing to new heights.

Villepinte, halfway between Paris and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle International Airport. The exhibition center Villepinte/Paris North is the biggest expo hall in France with 240,000 square meters. Once a year the hall rolls out the red carpet for the world’s biggest defense contractors, and displays the newest in military and civilian developments: Eurosatory, a defense fair in the city of love? While the display of tanks and helicopters do get all the attention, the fair is a unique chance for journalists, legislators, service personnel and contractors to get together and talk. There are a lot of debates going on in the hallways of the exhibition center, where mockups of rockets stand next to rifles and infantry fighting vehicles. Yet, the exhibition hall also features predominantly small producers of plastic components, tents for displaced people, mobile bakeries and kitchens to feed thousands of refugees, power generators, auxiliary power, water purification units and thus features lots of innovative ways to solve humanitarian crises. Eurosatory is not only a military fair, but also the world’s largest "supermarket" to peacefully solve crises and save lives.

Unexpectedly Open

Conventional wisdom would suggest that the fair operates in total secrecy, that pictures are not allowed and that journalists are not welcomed. This is not the case: Eurosatory is surprisingly open with only a handful of stalls not allowing to take pictures of sophisticated industrial secrets like turbines of electronic battlefield surveillance tools. Press representatives are welcomed, and questions are answered. A combat pilot from the US Armed Forces showcasing how the optics on a helicopter work, or an IT operator explaining how integrated combat surveillance systems work, at Eurosatory, the answers satisfy the members of the press. Rarely do journalists run into brick walls. The interest is mutual, as many producers ask war journalists about their recent trips to Ukraine and what problems they have encountered. Some ballistic protection and telecommunication companies even openly advertise for journalists to come and test their material in the field.

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