Abu Dhabi Defense Shows Highlight New Products, Partnerships


“This edition has been nothing short of exceptional,” Maj. Gen. Staff Pilot Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee, which “enables our nation to cultivate and expand our defense infrastructure and technological systems, using them to ensure security and peace across the Mideast.”

The International Defense Exhibition and Naval Defense Exhibitions (IDEX and NAVDEX 2021) have seen extensive participation and $5.7 billion in deals over the last five days.

The first global defense show to take place in the post-pandemic recovery stage attracted more than 62,000 attendees, 900 exhibitors, 59 countries, and 35 international pavilions.

“This edition has been nothing short of exceptional,” said Maj. Gen. Staff Pilot Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee said at a press briefing. “That union has enabled our nation to cultivate and expand our defense infrastructure and technological systems, using them to ensure security and peace across the Middle East.”

The foremost achievement of this edition, however, was the rigorous implementation of all precautionary COVID-19 health measures.

“IDEX and NAVDEX 2021 enabled the return of the national business tourism sector, alongside continuing to support the UAE’s defence industry and ensured that UAE products are globally competitively, both meeting the needs of the nation alongside reaching new markets,” he added.

During the first four days of the exhibitions, 98% of participants and visitors said they were satisfied with the preventative and precautionary measures implemented, while 99% of participants stated they felt safe inside the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).

“Doubtlessly, these figures demonstrate the accomplishment of this edition,” said Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri, managing director and group CEO of ADNEC. “Lessons learnt here will support the wider resurgence of the business tourism sector, both at a local and international level.”

Among the defense deals announced here, French Nexter Systems will provide spare parts to Leclerc tanks for the Emirati General Maintenance Corps Command; Abu Dhabi Autonomous System Investments will provide a drone system, launch pads, and ground control units for the Presidential Guard Command; International Golden Group will provide weapons and ammunitions to the armed forces and Boeing to provide maintenance services for the C-17 simulators for the Air Force and Air Defense Command.

Stealing the show was UAE’s EDGE Group and its subsidiaries in unmanned aerial and land vehicles fields.

ADASI, the end-to-end solution provider within the autonomous systems industry, unveiled its first family of multirotor loitering munitions, the QX range.

“The QX-1, QX-2 and QX-3 are quadcopters and QX-4 is a fixed-wing vertical-takeoff-and-landing UAV” senior business development manager Mohamed Abdullah Al Nuaimi, told Breaking Defense. “We integrated explosive payloads inside these systems, respectively 0.5 Kg, 1.5 Kg, 6Kg and 5Kg,” he added.

Each aircraft have different ranges and endurance. “They range up from 10 to 40km with the endurance ranging from 20 to 90 minutes and can give their troops a better field advantage in areas where GPS is denied,” Al Nuaimi explained.

The precision-guided systems use sophisticated AI algorithms to target and strike, boasting an accuracy of 1 m CEP (circular error probable) – with an aim like laser guided munitions. They are currently under development and the company plans to start production by the end of this year. Explosives to the systems will be provided by Halcon, another part of EDGE.

The company also showed off its Shadow 50 and Shadow 25 drones, its Rash 2 gliding munition kit, and new variants of the RW-24 drone, securing a $15 million contract to supply Rash 2 to the UAE Armed Forces, marking the first order of the new product.

ADASI has also collaborated with Nimr, its sister company within EDGE Group to convert the Ajban 440A armored vehicle into an unmanned system dubbed the Ajban armed robotic vehicle. It withstands small arms fire, artillery shell splinters and survives mine and improvised explosive device blasts and has a payload capacity of 1,200kg.

“Improving military fleet capabilities is an operational priority,” CEO Abri du Plessis told Breaking Defense. “To protect soldiers and maximize their impact, we are making progressive strides toward the introduction of autonomous systems in tactical vehicles in an effort to remove the risk faced by soldiers in volatile missions.”

Nimr is also joining forces with Singapore’s ST Engineering to build hybrid electric drive systems that can be used in armored vehicles, making it the first manufacturer in the region to achieve such a milestone. “This collaboration highlights our commitment to optimizing synergies,” the CEO told me.

Another significant aspect of the show was highlighted through strategic partnerships between local and international entities. Leading the way was Tawazun Economic Council who inked multiple agreements, most importantly with Saab and Thales.

Saab will carry out research and development in the UAE on sensor systems, as well as participate in the Sustain and Enhance Emiratization in Defense and Security (SEEDS) program.

“It is Saab’s strategy to partner with top companies in the region, and this is our key factor to success,” Anna-Karin Rosén, Managing Director of Saab Ltd. in the UAE told me in an interview.

“We have the same approach here in the UAE as we do internationally, and the agreement with Tawazun is an example of that. I am a very firm believer in the strength of having industry working together with government entities and we are actively pursuing these kinds of relationships in the UAE.”

Tawazun and Thales Emarat Technologies, have also announced the launch of a Radar Center of Excellence. The mandate for this center will include the development, building, maintenance and support of Thales radars. Specific focus will be on the development of high potential next-generation radars. Once the center is completed, the intention is to export those systems from the UAE to all parts of the world.

“It is through partnerships such as this that we can continue to develop and build up our critical technical capabilities and our national competencies and skills, fortifying the sovereign capabilities of the UAE,” Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani, CEO of Tawazun Economic Council said in a statement.

The Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) also concluded strategic partnership agreements, including one with the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) to be a strategic partner in the upcoming World Defense Show 2022 held in Riyadh.

The Chinese and Russians were vigorously present at the show.

Under the banner of “China Defense”, the Chinese pavilion attracted a large number of visitors and showcased a wide variety of products like the HJ-12 portable anti-tank missile, Golden Eagle CR500 helo drone, SR-5 Multiple Launch Rocket System, WS-43 loitering munitions system, CH series drones, and Wing Loong II armed reconnaissance drone.

Norinco alone showcased around 100 kinds of products, from air-defense missiles to unmanned equipment and intelligent ammunition. The company also highlighted its new partnership with UAE’s International Golden Group through their joint project China-Emirates Science and Technology innovation laboratory (CEST).

“IDEX is a global event that pays much attention to the latest talents in the region,” one company official told me. “This year, the competition is high and we are here to show everyone what we are capable of.”

The worldwide debut of Kalashnikov’s AK-19 rifle also took place, a move that boosts Russia’s presence in the Middle East, one company spokesperson told me.

With its variety of products ranging from small firearms to equipment for special forces, the company mainly highlighted its assault rifles “given that we see a huge potential market in that area within the Mideast region,” he said. “We have witnessed a high level of delegations passing by our stand and we couldn’t be more excited of what’s coming next.”

One major thing that couldn’t have been missed was the calmness surrounding the US pavilion. “It looks like there was a unified understanding not to speak about the announcements made at the show,” one military observer told Breaking Defense. 

“This could directly be related to the changes undergone by the new Biden Administration and US companies are making sure to keep good relations with everyone. They can’t really afford losing ground in the Mideast, especially with the growing presence of the Chinese and Russians on one hand, and the expansion of local defense industries and their new high-caliber partnerships, on the other,” he concluded.

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