THE F-35 stealth fighter is designed to be unnoticeable—at least by enemy radar. Nonetheless, it was the showstopper at this week’s Farnborough air show in Britain, impressing crowds in the showground’s terraces with its smooth manoeuvres and party tricks such as flying backwards. Such was the buzz around the new jet that CEOs attending the show to hammer out big deals broke off meetings to watch. But at Farnborough’s trade show, which opened on July 11th, all the talk was of the missiles the F-35 can fire, as well as the new missile-defence systems that could eventually shoot it down.

Missiles excite, for unlike other weapons, demand for them is growing strongly. Global defence spending grew by just 1% last year—after five years of severe budget cuts in many countries—but the global market for missiles and missile-defence systems is racing ahead at around 5% a year. The capabilities of such weapons are increasing, and with that their price and profitability. Missiles are no longer just flying bombs; they now often contain more computer than explosive to help find their target autonomously.

Sales are rising along with the military...Continue reading