Farnborough International is best known for its airshow, but its main purpose is the combined arms fair and civil aerospace exhibition. Weapons are marketed to international delegations from around the world.
The family-friendly Airshow and ‘Futures Day’ (career events for young people) give weapons manufacturers a unique PR opportunity.
Farnborough International is held at Farnborough Airfield in Hampshire. It is run by Farnborough International Ltd, a subsidiary company owned by the arms industry’s trade body, ADS.
It takes place every two years, alternating years with the DSEI arms fair in London. Farnborough International last took place in July 2020. For the first time it was an online event, due to the COVID pandemic. It is expected to return in 2022.
The government’s arms sales unit (UK Defence & Security Exports, DSE) plays a major role in organising Farnborough International, not least by inviting official delegations. In 2018, it reported that delegations from 45 countries had attended, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE despite the devastating consequences of their attacks on Yemen.
DSE provides chaperones for the delegations, as well as arranging private meetings with companies.
There were over 1,500 exhibitors at Farnborough 2018, including most of the world’s largest arms companies. They exhibited a range of weaponry that included combat aircraft, missile systems, armoured vehicles and drones.
Major arms companies that were present included BAE Systems, Raytheon, Lockeed Martin and Elbit. They presented equipment from across their aerospace and military portfolios.
The full exhibitor list is available on the Farnborough International website.