October 24, 2012
Credit: Credit: US Army
Britain, already the largest foreign supplier of defense equipment to the United States, sees opportunities for the two allies to expand cooperation on weapons programs in coming years as mounting budget pressures strain military coffers, said an official at Britain’s trade and investment office.
British trade and security officials are leading a delegation of more than 20 U.K. firms participating in a major U.S. Army trade show in Washington this week.
They are also scheduled to meet with Pentagon officials for talks on expanding defense trade between the two countries after a bilateral defense trade treaty that was signed in 2007 but only entered into force in April.
Geoff Gladding, regional director for defense and security sales in Europe and the Americas at Britain’s trade and investment office, said it made sense to join forces on development of new weapons, given tighter budgets.
Britain and other European countries have already cut their military budgets sharply while the Pentagon’s proposed budget is slated to be cut by $487 billion (305.3 billion pounds) over the next decade - with another $500 billion in cuts looming unless lawmakers find other ways to reduce the federal deficit.
Gladding said bilateral cooperation on arms programs were underscored by NATO’s new “smart defense” policy, which encourages greater cooperation among alliance members to give members access to weapons they could not afford on their own.
“Everybody’s challenges are very similar,” Gladding told Reuters on the sidelines of the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army. “It just absolutely screams out to us that there are things we can do jointly to ... deliver the kind of capability that our armed forces need.”
Gladding said his office was in active discussions with U.S. Army officials and others about Britain’s Brimstone missile air-to-ground missile program, built by MBDA, which is owned by Franco-German aerospace group EADS, Britain’s BAE Systems and Finmeccanica of Italy.