To most of the thousands of people streaming into the massive convention center on the Thames in London in September, the sleek cruise missiles on the walkway were just two more weapons on offer at the Defense and Security Equipment International exhibition, one of the world’s largest arms shows. Made by Kongsberg, a
Norwegian defense firm founded when the U.S. and Britain were fighting the War of 1812, they nonetheless sported bright-red Raytheon logos on their glossy white paint, hinting at a far more modern battle: Kongsberg’s marketing campaign to win sales to the Pentagon.
The opening years of the 21st century sent American military spending skyward even as defense spending slumped elsewhere and international arms makers have rushed to establish a foothold in the U.S. market. Now, as Pentagon spending flattens out, those firms are seeking to solidify their market share. Most are focused on selling products not currently made by U.S. companies, while others are touting commercial—and cheaper—gear adapted for the military.