IDEX NEWS: UAE Opens Its Borders For Record Breaking Defense Trade Show

By Mikayla Easley

Mikayla Easley photo

ABU DHABI — With autonomous systems, maritime platforms, electronic warfare and more, there’s no shortage of advanced defense technologies on display at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center this week.

Government officials, businesses and media from across the globe have flocked to the United Arab Emirates’ capital city for the International Defence Exhibition, or IDEX, and its naval counterpart called NAVDEX from February 20 to 24.

With the return to relative normalcy since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference’s organizers predict that more than 130,000 people will attend this year — more than double the amount of attendees in 2021 — making 2023 the largest IDEX in the show’s history.

Around 1,350 exhibitors will be showing off their latest technologies and platforms at both IDEX and NAVDEX, a 50 percent increase from IDEX 2021, the organizers said. In all, 65 countries will be represented at the conference, including several first-time attendees: Uzbekistan, Ireland, Nigeria, Montenegro, Kuwait, Lithuania, Bangladesh and Monaco.

In addition, participation in NAVDEX is expected to grow by 206 percent from 2021, organizers said. Naval vessels and ships from Pakistan, Bahrain, Britain, Italy, China, Kuwait, India and the United Arab Emirates will be docked at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre Waterfront during the show.

As the hosts of the biennial conference, 180 firms from the United Arab Emirates will fill out the largest pavilion at the convention center, the show’s organizers said.

Although the United Arab Emirates’ troop withdrawal from Yemen in early 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have stalled defense spending in recent years, the country’s plans to modernize its armed forces are expected to ramp up investments.

A report published Feb. 1 by GlobalData — “United Arab Emirates (UAE) Defense Market Size and Trends, Budget Allocation, Regulations, Key Acquisitions, Competitive Landscape and Forecast, 2023-2028” — noted that the defense market in the UAE is expected to reach an annual growth rate of more than 4 percent over the next five years.

“With the support and future vision of our wise leadership, the UAE has achieved a prominent position in the defence industry, becoming a destination for leaders, decision-makers and experts from all over the world,” Maj. Gen. Mubarak Saeed bin Gafan Al Jabri, vice chairman of the conference’s Higher Organizing Committee, said in a statement.

“The Ministry of Defence’s support for IDEX and NAVDEX is part of the UAE’s efforts to keep up with the developments of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and achieve a knowledge-based economy and sustainable development in various sectors,” he added.

As a testament to the UAE’s investments in defense modernization, the state-owned EDGE Group, a conglomeration of 25 defense companies that was established in 2019, launched 11 new autonomous platforms on the first day of IDEX. The systems covered a range of domains — including air, land and sea — and mission sets from aerial logistics to undersea mine detection.

Along with displaying new technologies, the conference has also been a chance to forge new partnerships under an ever-evolving global security environment.

Ahead of the show, Israeli defense firm Rafael announced it had opened a new office in Abu Dhabi that would allow the company to “explore opportunities in the region, utilizing its culture of collaboration, excellence and innovation to create relationships with governments, customers and defense industry leaders,” a Rafael press release said.

The company heralded the new office as a “historic occasion.” Just over two years ago, Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed the Abraham Accords treaty and agreed to normalize relations.

“We are encouraged by yet another concrete step in strengthening Rafael’s ties with the UAE. We can now say that we have built the bridge to the United Arab Emirates by this inaugural investment and are excited to continue to expand the relationships that have been cultivated thus far,” Rafael President and CEO Yoav Har-Even said in a statement.

And as Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches the one-year mark this week, Russian defense firms are also looking for partnerships in the Middle East.

While IDEX and NAVDEX’s official list of exhibitors indicated there won’t be any companies from Russia at the conference, the country’s agency for defense-related imports and exports called Rosoboronexport is showcasing its Russian-made products in a separate tent outside of the convention center.

The agency is considering joint-development programs with Middle Eastern nations on a number of projects, including a fifth-generation fighter jet based on Russia’s Su-75 Checkmate aircraft, air defense systems, naval equipment and weapons for ground forces, Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheyev said in a statement.

Speaking during a panel the day before the show, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State Defence Affairs Mohammed bin Ahmad Al Bowardi said that IDEX and NAVDEX should be a place where attendees can learn about the latest technologies that can help deter conflict.

“As we seek security in an era of turmoil, we must adapt and meet the realities of the situation in which we live, and on the other hand, we must explore the nature of the challenges and devise the means and methods to take advantage of technological development to manage the transformation process with full awareness,” Al Bowardi said through an interpreter.

Topics: International

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