At sea in an ocean of military equipment, vehicles and components
Posted by John Keller
LONDON, 13 Sept. 2011. I'm attending the monster Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) military trade show today in London, and I'm reminded of why I never fail to leave any one of the Smithsonian museums without a vague feeling of being stuffed and starved at the same time.
The Smithsonian has too much of everything, and not enough of anything. So does the DSEi show.
Tanks, armored vehicles, machine guns, chemical protection suits, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat radios, electronic connectors, boots, body armor, navigation systems, personal cooling systems, missiles, non-lethal hand grenades (I couldn't be making this up), rubber bullets, helicopters, a non-flying F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ... the list goes on and on.
Confused yet? Imagine how I feel. At least you're probably not sore from your hips to your big toes. When I say DSEi is big, I mean really big -- two-exhibit-halls-twice-as-wide-as-a-football-field-and-probably-four-times-as-long big.
I hadn't been getting my walks in of late. Between the London-rush-hour trip over here on the Underground -- lovingly called the Tube -- and winding my away around football fields of tanks, armored vehicles, machine guns ... well, you get the idea ..., and I've gotten my walks in for weeks.
If I force myself to get past the sheer, brute incongruity of it all, there are some pretty interesting things here. Meggitt plc in Christchurch, England, for example, is getting ready to introduce a soldier's personal, body-worn air conditioner that's about the size of a soft drink can. I can only imagine how they'll do the duct work to cool a warfighter from head to toe.
The unmanned aerial vehicles on display, as usual, are head-turners. And as is becoming fashionable at big defense shows these days, DSEi has the obligatory unmanned vehicle demonstration area, complete with protective netting to keep the flying things separate from show attendees.
Oh, and I forgot to mention my favorite exhibit at the show so far.
The armored cement mixer -- no, really. I suppose you never know when you'll need to build a concrete apron fast on some battlefield while the shooting is still going on ... or a basketball court, or a built-in barbecue and patio. At least that way we'll have good use for all that body armor and bolt-less helmets.
You'll have to excuse me now; I'm not finished walking the floors at DSEi. I need to go find the Kevlar basketballs and titanium barbecue spatulas.