FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: This is it. We are wrapping up our coverage of the 2012 show. The grey and wet skies that blanketed the show for most of the week stand as a metaphor for the defense business.

One industry observer, with more than 20 years of air shows under his belt, told me this morning that this Farnborough was the worst for news he’d ever seen. The companies didn’t put out many press releases compared to years past. Most of the press had vanished by today, with only we trade reporters clinging hard to the hope there might be a morsel of something to tease out. Keep reading →

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FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: The sun shone — sometimes. Well, once in a while. But regardless of the weather here crowds turned out to watch the planes, especially the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Its sleek composite frame complemented the subtle bend of the wings as the plane took off and banked.

The 787’s pilot was praised by the announcer (yes, they have an announcer at the air show who tells people what plane is flying, offers technical explanation of the maneuvers and discusses the pilots’ qualifications and special skills) for staying within 100 feet of his programmed flight path even as he banked sharply and wandered through the clouds. Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: You can tell the U.S. defense budget is shrinking when one of the more interesting stories during an international air show centers on a plane, the F-16, first delivered in 1979.

But BAE Systems’ press conference focused on just that, providing upgrades to the worldwide fleet of some 2,500 airplanes in what the company’s lead man on the upgrades, Floyd McConnell, called a market of “several billion.” Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: Raytheon, of all the American defense contractors, has made the biggest commitment to air shows in the last three years in hopes of boosting the company’s foreign market share to 30 percent from the current quarter of company business.

Every American defense company, watching the debate over sequestration and the long-term prospects of U.S. defense spending, is hoping to ratchet up its foreign business to keep cash flowing and profits solid. Keep reading →

“Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle” is arguably the most awesome name on record for a Pentagon program. Technologically, the Raytheon-built EKV is pretty impressive, able to hit an incoming missile head-on at over 15,000 miles per hour.

Some background: The Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle is the business end of the missile defense system now based in Alaska and California, the guided warhead that separates from the booster rocket to seek out and destroy enemy missiles in space (hence “exoatmospheric”) before they hit the US. On Monday, at the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, Raytheon executive Wes Kremer announced that the company had signed a new $636 million, seven-year contract to provide EKVs to Boeing, the lead contractor for ground-based missile defense. Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: Headline: Dutch Parliament votes to kill Joint Strike Fighter. Reality: Dutch parliamentarians cast meaningless vote as they position for elections in six months.

That sort of sums up much of what we’ve heard about the F-35 here. There are a few headlines but very little that’s really newsworthy. Of course, you can hear the Lockheed Martin folks going “yippee” as they read that, but it’s true. Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: One of the topics dear to the hearts of Beltway bandits, defense lobbyists and — let’s be honest — reporters, is always who will run things after the November elections.

Few people wise in the ways of Washington I know are willing to predict what will happen when the people vote. But I was lucky enough to bump into Sen. James Inhofe, Nr. 2 Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning at the Raytheon pavilion here. Inhofe had just been briefed on the company’s new Aviation Warrior effort. Keep reading →

FARNBOROUGH AIR SHOW: Aviation Warrior is a tiny $5 million contract with enormous potential, given the legions of American and allied helicopters around the world. Raytheon unveiled the system this morning here. Essentially, it’s an advanced heads-up display on the pilot’s helmet — with colored maps and symbology to help pilots cope with dangers such as brownouts and powerlines coupled with a small, ruggedized hard drive and an arm band device that shows Blue Force tracking information.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, second-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee dropped by for a briefing on the new system. Keep reading →

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