If you're a defense industry executive or spokesperson, the party is officially over. For the first time in a decade, put on the glum look. If yours is rusty, look up at the gloomy British skies above Farnborough for reference.
I have a feeling it's going to be that kind of a show. Lockheed Martin's participation has been slashed in half, which apparently includes the budget for the (sad face) company's media dinner. Honeywell has no corporate presence at all, although that decision was made in 2008. There's a "new reality" in the global defense market these days, as Lockheed CEO Robert Stevens says, and it suits the prevailing British weather like a matching pocket square.
The gloominess extends to the display and static line-up of military aircraft. Yes, the Airbus A400M will make its Farnborough debut, as will the Saab Gripen NG demonstrator. But the two biggest aerial stars -- Lockheed F-35 and Sukhoi T-50 -- remain too involved in early flight tests to join the show this year.
Something always -- happens -- at these shows. Maybe the rumors are true and the United Arab Emirates will finally confirm an order for 60 Dassault Rafales.(Of course, we heard the same rumors last year at Dubai and Paris.) The rhetorical war between Boeing and EADS will no doubt continue, but will we finally learn details about Boeing's configuration for the KC-767 NewGen Tanker? Eurofighter and Boeing have launched preliminary attacks on claims of superiority by Lockheed's F-35, which will be without its biggest customer, defender and apologist.
Perhaps the bright spot at Farnborough this year will be the sight of so many new mock-ups for stealthy, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs). But any cheer they offer may be tempered by the reality -- there's that word again -- that they are only mock-ups and one wonders where the money will materialize to actually demonstrate and produce them.
Keep track of everything that happens -- as it happens -- on our show web site. No matter how dour the official mood, Farnborough's flying display never disappoints!