UK Largest Ever Presence at MAST Asia Conference and Exhibition in Japan

Increasing Opportunities for the UK to Collaborate and Win Business in Japan

Eighteen UK defence companies exhibited at the MAST Asia conference and exhibition from 12 to 14 June 2017 at Makuhari Messe, near Tokyo, double the number from 2015.

The MAST (Maritime/Air Systems & Technologies) conference and exhibition is geared towards the maritime defence and security sector.

Keynote and plenary speakers discuss key topical and regional issues, while solutions from the most innovative and world-leading maritime defense and security manufacturers and suppliers, agencies, research and technology labs, and academia are showcased to key players and decision-makers in the industry.

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UK Defence Companies Find Interest in Japan

The four companies representing the UK on the stand included Babcock International Group, BOXARR, Leonardo Helicopters and Rolls-Royce.


Babcock, an engineering support services business employing around 35,000 people worldwide, is a relative newcomer to the Japanese defence market.

“We are just starting to look at Japan to see what we can do in terms of looking at collaboration,” explained Jeff Owen, Vice President of Global Growth & Operations.

“Research and development projects are of great interest to us, and especially seeing how the UK and Japan collaborate, particularly in the submarine arena,” he added.

“We’ve seen a good enthusiasm about interacting, and I suspect the Japanese industry would be thinking about where it might potentially collaborate with a company like ours in the export market.”

In attending MAST Asia 2017 Babcock is seeking to raise brand awareness and take away some key learning points from the conferences.

Babcock has used DIT services extensively throughout the years, exhibiting at various trade shows across the world. “We use their services in different forms,” added Owen, “working closely with the team to get the most impact we can from every event.”


Vice President for Global Alliances at BOXARR, Fraser Hamilton, was proud to represent SMEs’ capabilities in the defence sector on the UK pavilion.

BOXARR is a software platform that helps organisations to collaboratively manage complex inter-dependent challenges; such as program planning, supply-chain, systems design, engineering or integration, process and operational optimisation.

A keyword for BOXARR is “scalability” – enabling people across and between organisations to model, simulate, and analyse challenges on a ‘real-world’ scale. BOXARR have predominantly worked within the aerospace & defence sectors, supporting the leading OEMs and primes, and engaging with the government and military in the UK, US, and Australia. However, BOXARR’s technology can readily be applied across a wide range of commercial and civil sectors such as automotive, healthcare, construction, energy, and government.

Hamilton indicated the company’s interest in developing a stronger presence in the Asia-Pacific region, hence their attendance at MAST Asia 2017.

“We’re trying to be far more proactive about reaching customers in this region,” said Hamilton. “Japan is high on our agenda because they are an ally and there is a lot of highly complex activity in aerospace and defence.”

“The Japanese market is completely new to us,” commented Hamilton on the brand’s presence at the event. “We are on an investigatory mission to better understand how it works, and meet with key players and stakeholders across the military and defence industry in Japan to show them what they can achieve with BOXARR.”

BOXARR works closely with DIT DSO and is leading by example. Hamilton elaborates, “We’ve recently been awarded status as a Commonwealth Export Champion, so we want to do our bit to stand up and wave the flag for Britain and attend these events as much as we can.”

Hamilton had some advice for fellow UK SMEs. “It’s really important to engage with government facilities like the DIT DSO to explore new opportunities. Get your company in front of the world, and demonstrate your value.”

Leonardo Helicopters

Leonardo Helicopters has been doing business in Japan for many years and opened its regional office, AgustaWestland Japan in 2008. In 2016 AgustaWestland was absorbed by its holding company into one single integrated industrial entity, renamed as Leonardo.

The company has almost 120 aircraft of all types, both military and commercial, operating in Japan.

Their military business in Japan started in 2003 when the JMoD selected the AW101 helicopter for its future AMCM / Utility program, for use by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF).

They are currently collaborating with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and bidding for a new tender for additional helicopters.

Andrew Hill, President of AgustaWestland Japan, emphasised the fact that
UK-Japan collaboration is working very well, both at Navy to Navy and industry level.

As the first non-US company to enter the Japanese market to build a rotary wing platform under license in Japan, Leonardo Helicopters, together with its products, has long been a market leader in the industry.

Attending MAST Asia to represent the new company Leonardo Helicopters, Hill spoke of the value of meeting senior military people, fostering key relationships and looking at further projects in Japan.


Rolls-Royce has enjoyed a long business relationship with Japan, dating back over 50 years.

Will Erith, Director of Asia Pacific Programmes, works specifically on the engineering company’s naval business in this region.

The company provides equipment and support for four main sectors: aerospace (civil aerospace and defence aerospace), power systems, marine, and nuclear.

The marine division specifically is the number one provider of marine solutions in the world, offering the widest range of products from a single supplier.

Japan has been an important market for Rolls-Royce for a very long time, with their gas turbines being widely used by the JMSDF.

Erith emphasised the importance of the strong, long-lasting relationships Rolls-Royce shares with the Japanese heavy industry companies.

“There is a high standard that is set by Japanese customers, and since we always endeavor to deliver against this high expectation, both in terms of product quality and support, the reaction to our products has been really positive,” he said.

Attending MAST Asia is an opportunity for Erith to meet Roll-Royce’s partners and customers and reinforce those relationships, as well as raise brand visibility even further.

For British companies seeking to do business in the defence sector in Japan, Erith, says, “A good understanding of the market is important, and also having good, strong partnerships with local industries.”

Beyond the DIT DSO Stand

A handful of other companies with strong UK links exhibited on separate stands at the event, including Thales, MBDA, BMT Defence Systems, Chemring Countermeasures Ltd., and QinetiQ Target Systems.

MBDA produces missile systems and defensive aid systems, and is the second largest company in the world for missile sales.

Export Development Executive Military Advisor Mark Sheehan indicated the company’s desire to engage with the JMSDF at the show.

MBDA has been established in the Japanese market for several years.

Operating in the high technology sector, the company’s capabilities are of interest to Japanese military.
Sheehan urged UK businesses to “engage widely, particularly with organisations like DIT DSO, who have a very good network of contacts and can provide very sage and apposite advice to companies about how to conduct business in Japan.”

Japan is increasingly investing in defence solutions from overseas, and is keen to cooperate and collaborate with British companies in the defence sector.

Opportunities continue to exist for UK-Japan partnerships to win business both in Japan and globally.


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Article and photo by Vanessa Holden, June 2017.