Why is there a Toyota HiLux pickup on the BAE Systems stand? And why does Thales call a press conference to talk about everything except radars and optronics?
Both companies have used IDEX to highlight a new interest: "security" rather than defense. Only weeks ago, BAE Systems edited its strategic goal: it now wants to be the world's number one "global defense and security company" (emphasis added). On Monday, too, senior Thales executives briefed on the company's security business in the Middle East region.
One reason, comments Thales vice-president for Asia and Middle East Alexandre de Juniac, is that the importance of "critical infrastructure" targets is rising. Particularly in the Middle East, de Juniac cites gas and oil installations, airports and the Dubai Metro as high-value targets for interference or attack.
In response to more sophisticated threats, de Junias says, police and other civil authorities need to deploy military-style technology: thermal imagers rather than TV cameras, complex intelligence-analysis and collection systems, and even UAVs to patrol borders instead of "totally useless" sensors.
Defense contractors, used to handling sensitive information and advanced technology, and used to integrating complex systems, are uniquely qualified to lead such projects, de Junias says. However, he adds, involving local industry is crucial, as is maintaining and in-country presence.
BAE Systems group business development director Alan Garwood sees systems like the Herti autonomous UAV as playing a role in homeland security - supporting police and coast guards, hunting for illegal fisheries, immigrant-runners and drug smugglers. "Autonomous operations take the risk out of security", he says. "You're not worrying about an individual's attention span."
BAE Systems has taken a number of steps to address the security market. One of them is to form a new security and survivability group, centered on the company's US-based armor business. The new company will work to exploit technologies across the group, and will work with partners worldwide to develop armor systems for people, aircraft, vehicles and buildings, says group president Tony Russell.
The "discreetly protected" HiLux is an example of this work, using ceramic. composite, metallic and transparent armor technologies developed for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide a high lvel of protection without sacrificing mobility - and without looking too obvious.