Aerospace, Defence and Security

The Eversheds Aerospace and Defence group is an internationally facing, specialist sector group advising many major national and international clients from both the public and private sectors; including leading suppliers of defence products, government departments and association bodies.

We understand the intricacies of this sector and will deliver clear, straightforward advice - wherever our clients are based. The group's focus is truly international.

The defence sector continues to feel the impact of global economic headwinds, rebalancing from West to East and the end of the procurement spike caused by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The defence majors of EU countries (and their supply chains) struggle in the context of national defence procurement budgets which may be insufficient to sustain "nationals" in their current form - and even US-based companies are beginning to feel the pinch from reductions in the world's biggest defence budget.

It remains to be seen whether and how certain Western governments (in particular the UK) will reconcile a rejection of national defence industrial strategy with the stated aims of growth and export in an environment of significantly reduced (and reducing) budgets - but further emphasis on contractorisation of non-core activities seems more than likely.

In this context, Western defence companies look to increase their competition in the perceived growth markets of the Middle East and South East Asia - but must do so against the twin challenges of strong local competitors (only some of which may be appropriate offset or joint venture partners) and ITAR and other export control regulations (constraining the technology-transfer sought, and sometimes required, by these customers).

Further M&A and strategic partnerships are inevitable, but few remaining candidates among the Primes are without significant hurdles, so supply chain consolidation, opportunistic bolt-ons and project-specific joint ventures seem more likely. For the last few years, cyber-security has provided much of the momentum and opportunity for diversification in this space: smaller targets still exist, but valuations remain high in the context of the wider market.

Against this landscape, we see an increased emphasis on and need for consistently high-quality legal advice across an international footprint to companies in this sector; in particular:

  • The Defence Procurement Directive (as implemented in EU member states) increases the potential for procurement challenges (in particular by "foreign" competitors) regular in other sectors, but rare so far in defence. We have significant and current experience advising on the use of this (and other procurement regulations) both as a sword and a shield. In particular, early engagement and advice to procuring authorities by interested bidders can be extremely valuable to avoid procurement wins becoming drawn-out rearguard actions.

  • Our commercial and projects team is second-to-none and is currently advising on some of the most significant ongoing outsourcing and procurement projects in the sector: they have the experience and approach required to offer cutting-edge advice while maintaining a lean and focussed process.

  • We are already seeing a greater risk of litigation and disputes down the supply chain - our litigation team have significant current and ongoing experience with litigation and arbitration specifically within the defence sector and in this context our award-winning RAPID litigation tool delivers certainty and fully informed decision making throughout the litigation process.

  • Our M&A team regularly advise on transactions of a variety of sizes within the sector and (using our Dealtrack tools) can tailor their approach so that costs are proportionate and predictable while maintaining the highest quality of advice, including on the specific regulatory aspects which the sector requires.

  • Our export control team regularly advise clients on all aspects of export control law and regulations across our international network: this currency of advice is critical in area where rules and practice change frequently in response to international affairs and where a correct and fast answer can be business critical.

Across the sector internationally we are proud to include the following clients among those we advise:

  • Agusta Westland
  • BAE Systems
  • BBA Aviation plc
  • The Boeing Company
  • Rolls-Royce
  • EADS
  • Esterline Technologies Group
  • Smiths Group
  • Hampson Aerospace