Defence Minister James Cartlidge formally opens DSEI 2023

Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge officially opened Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) 2023 at ExCel London

James Cartlidge MP

Welcome everybody to DSEI 2023. It’s a true honour to open this world class defence exhibition. I’ll do my best to make up for the Red Arrows.

As you can seen as you’ve been walking around inside, it just gets bigger and better.

100,000 square metres of space devoted to Defence. More than 2,800 defence and security suppliers, large and small, plus the biggest names in tech. More than 1,500 exhibitors. 230 new exhibitors. 98 per cent of the top 100 Defence companies.

Plus representatives from 50 nations and 36 international pavilions. Welcome to you all, wherever you come from.

This week is the opportunity to see the whole of the Defence ecosystem in one place. A chance to marvel at the dazzling array of state-of-the-art capabilities from space and cyber to medicine and manufacturing.

And there’s a reason this is the biggest DSEI in its history.

We are all seeking greater security in a more volatile world. Much of the blame for that ongoing uncertainty lies with Russia’s illegal and senseless invasion of Ukraine.

Together with the new assertiveness of aggressor nations, the Russian government are posing an unprecedented threat to our entire international order. Yet despite the brutality of the invaders, brave Ukrainians are continuing to hold the line and the UK, alongside its allies, is proud to support them.

Yet, with the global dangers growing, we must continue to ask ourselves one question. What more we can do to strengthen our deterrence and defence?

Of course, there must be investment.

That’s why, since the 2021 Defence Command Paper, the UK has committed to investing heavily in modernising our Armed Forces.

Next year we will spend more than £50 billion on defence for the first-time. Indeed, the Government is committed to increasing spending further over the longer-term of 2.5% of GDP where fiscal conditions allow.

And we must keep finding new ways to get more punch for our pound.

So our refreshed Command Paper, building on the lessons from Ukraine, sharpens our approach. If you tour the different zones and you’ll discover a new vision for our forces. Multi-domain, linked by a Digital Backbone, augmented by Artificial Intelligence and underpinned by three fundamental principles.

Now, we love a good acronym in the MOD and I’ve actually invented one here – PIP.

The first is pace. If you doubted the rapid transformation we’re seeing on the battlefield, you only need to look at the way Ukrainians are deploying drones and uncrewed systems to target and destroy the enemy. By contrast, our acquisition programmes were simply not keeping up pace with the changes on the ground.

So we’ve started buying simpler platforms more quickly. Reducing the time taken to identify solutions, place contracts and send capabilities to the frontline. We’re setting maximum commitments – five years for acquisition programmes and three for digital.

And already the system is starting to move in our favour. I’m pleased to confirm the Army has procured the Interim Artillery Platform Archer in just two months and its delivery I can confirm is imminent for the first gun.

And we’ve also realised that we don’t have time to hold out for the 100 per cent solution. Eighty per cent is often ‘good enough’. Especially when you can as we say ‘spirally’ develop that capability to meet changing circumstances. That’s why we’re building on our positive experiences of Type 31 and Boxer, these crucial platforms, and seeking to acquire modular platforms that can be rapidly upgraded.

Also on the plus side, the UK has long been an innovation nation. Don’t take my word for it. Just wander past the DSTL stand to explore the latest advances in high altitude balloons, electromagnetic research, air platform protection and high energy lasers.

The second element of our approach – the I in ‘PIP’ - draws us neatly back to the theme of the conference itself: integration.

Producing equipment at the speed of relevance requires greater integration with industry. That’s why we’re creating a new alliance with our industrial partners.

Evolving the traditional customer-supplier relationship into a long-term strategic alignment. A relationship that allows us to share both the risk and reward that comes with generating new capabilities much faster. And taking a new approach to exports – something I’ll say more about shortly in another speech.

As part of that new relationship, we’re making sure we provide our industry partners with a much clearer demand signal about our intentions, our planning assumptions, and our evolving requirements.

In return, we will need to see from industry the strongest possible supply signal – investing in delivery, particularly investing in the skills and people we need to deliver.

That brings me to the third and final dimension - international partnerships. There are many people here from abroad and you’re more than welcome. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last two years it’s that – in the face of diverse and complex threats – we simply can’t go it alone.

So we’re striking new capability partnerships. With the United States and Australia through AUKUS – which coincidentally marks its second anniversary this week.

And with Japan and Italy over GCAP, the Global Combat Air Programme. These are much more than collaborations on next generation submarines and sixth generation fighters respectively.

They are about like-minded nations with shared values developing joint expertise together. Helping create shock-resistant supply chains. And catalysing long-term opportunities that create the sort of sustainable skills and industrial base that lasts for generations.

So, to conclude, I encourage you to explore our stands. Experience at first hand the fantastic technology on display. And make friends with DSEI’s class of 23. The brilliant brains behind the kit. Those making the UK world leaders. The real stars of the show.

Throughout this week, you’ll find a thousand and one reasons to buy British at DSEI. But don’t forget to look beyond the mere transactional. Seize the opportunity to stake a share in something more significant than a sale. A trusted partnership.

Ultimately, we can only deliver for our Armed Forces by working in partnership, and to that end I offer you all the warmest possible welcome to DSEI 2023.

Ministry of Defence
James Cartlidge MP