It’s called an airshow but it’s actually an arms fair. Farnborough International 2004 is possibly one of the most important shop windows for aircraft and aerospace manufactures including the military sector. So important, that the Exhibitors Guide includes a forward from Prime Minister Tony Blair: ‘The UK looks forward to hosting the cream of the world’s aerospace industry’ he writes.
The displays of military aircraft both flying and on the ground, makes Farnborough a battle ground not just for arms sales but for wining the hearts and minds of the public too.
The attendance list of companies reads like a Who’s Who of the arms industry: BAE Systems, Eurofighter GmBh, Cobham, Elbit Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grummam Corporation , Rafael, Raytheon and many others, in total 1,260 exhibitors in 2002. The planes, bombs and missiles from many of these companies were used in the attack on Iraq in 2003.
Farnborough is home ground for BAE Systems, Europe’s largest arms manufacturer. Farnborough Airport is used for private business flights and is operated by BAE systems subsidiary TAG Aviation.
Farnborough is where arms deals are done
The organisers are expecting to host, what they call, 1,000 VIP guests including heads of state, government ministers and officials, and military chiefs. There will be business chalets, lunches, demonstration flights and plenty of opportunities to clinch arms sales. The organisers say contracts, military and civilian, totalling over $9 billion were announced after the last Farnborough in 2002.
Feel the propaganda
The public days on the weekend of Farnborough attract the most visitors of the seven day event, about 150,000 of the 290,000 visitors in 2002. The organisers say that ‘Farnborough energies more people to stand-up to unfounded criticism of our industry, and push far further across the-board support. The public days are a very important part of the event, and to you as a company. They offer aviation enthusiasts, the general public and youth to experience first hand, the advancements of the Aerospace industry and the impact on our daily lives.’
Clearly the aerospace industry know they have a problem in public perceptions and they need to counter this. That military aircraft are weapons with their obvious function is difficult for the industry. Farnborough is important in fostering acceptance of the arms industry – when you can stand closed to fighter aircraft resting silently on the tarmac, then they seem almost harmless. That the Hawk jets are colourfully painted and perform aerobatics once again helps to foster acceptance of the weapons. Motor sports feature at Farnborough 2004: ‘See the rivalry between the fastest machines in the air and on the ground as a military jet and formula 1 car face along the runway’ says the programme. The message is clear – weapons systems are little different to sports – harmless fun. The cover of this years public programme shows a girl with pigtails grinning as the red arrow past overhead and says ‘How much fun can you have at the Farnborough Airshow?’. To help the kids enjoy the family day out there’s the Ronald McDonald-esce Captain Farnborough, as well as face painting too.
The public relations agency Luther Pendragon is being employed for Farnborough 2004. They oversee all media relations activity on site, provide strategic media relations advice and manage crisis communications planning. The importance of Farnborough as a propaganda tool for the arms industry is clear. As the organisers says: “This is a time when the aerospace sector faces many challenges, and Farnborough is the moment when we become most visible to all our audiences. We need a highly professional operation to ensure that we use that moment to convey the right messages to the right audiences as effectively as possible.” Interestingly, Luther Pendragon’s clients include McDonalds.
What you can do
If you bank with Lloyds TSB then write to them and ask for them to withdraw their sponsorship of Farnborough. The bank is sponsoring the Presidents Enclosure this year.
Come to a training day and get active
There will be a training day on Saturday 3 July in London for people who want to take part in either CAAT’s public engagement or the *non-violent* direct action at Farnborough. CAAT is organising a peaceful demonstration for the opening day, Monday 19 July, and public engagement on Saturday 24 July. The day designated for direct action is Sunday 25 July and it is being co-ordinated by Disarm (see their website below). Please note that the demonstration is a come-as-you-are event while the CAAT public engagement will require attendance on the CAAT training day.
Call the CAAT office on 020 7281 0297 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to reserve a place. There will be a nominal charge for the training day.
CAAT – www.caat.org.uk
Disarm – www.dsei.org
Farnborough 2004 – www.Farnborough.com
Activists Legal Project – www.activistslegalproject.org.uk
Non-violence training – www.seedsforchange.org.uk