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A complex military manoeuvre

Abu Dhabi's International Defence Exhibition and Conference, IDEX-2009, promises to provide the spectator with a number of surprises.

ABU DHABI // It has been prepared with the attention to detail you would expect from a military operation. Abu Dhabi's International Defence Exhibition and Conference, IDEX-2009, opens with a grand ceremony tomorrow and promises to provide the spectator with a number of surprises. The scale of the operation is impressive. Five thousand square metres of sand have been brought in to make an obstacle track for tanks and other military vehicles opposite the viewing galleries of the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC), while a bridge has also been built to connect visitors of the arms fair to the naval exhibits docking at the Bateen Channel, just across the road.

The channel's basin, too, has been dredged to six metres so it can accommodate larger ships. At least four warships from Britain, India, Italy, and the US will berth at the quay opposite the centre during the exhibition. Abu Dhabi Ship Building, which has the largest building and repair yard for the region's navies, will be participating in the naval shows with its assault, patrolling and troop-carrier boats.

Officials say the ninth version of IDEX will be the most grand yet, with 900 firms from 50 countries taking part. Throughout the past week, drivers passing by the venue facing Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street have witnessed ceaseless activity in the area - roaring tanks and hovering helicopters - to a background of stirring music. High-definition LED screens, with a total surface area of 564 square metres, will be employed to show off the opening ceremony to best effect. Previous fairs were launched by a short ribbon-cutting.

"The new thing about this exhibition is that all activities will be in one place and that's an achievement that resulted from the support of the Crown Prince" of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, said Maj Gen Obaid al Ketbi, chairman of IDEX Military Committees. In the past, military and naval shows took place away from the exhibition centre. He added that organising the high-profile display of the latest military technologies was "a major challenge" because of the global financial crisis, which has hit many of the world's top financial and industrial institutions.

"It proves the trust of participants in the capabilities of the Emirates," he said. "It proves that the economic situation here is good and there is government support." The second day of the five-day event will feature a conference on Gulf defence and cover such areas as security, international terrorism, and the security implications of nuclear energy programmes in the region. Maj Gen al Ketbi said IDEX was vital as a gathering point. "IDEX gives an opportunity for diplomatic representatives and decision-makers to be familiar with the latest technologies and available weapons, it's an opportunity for meeting and making deals."

The often tight-lipped army generals have been outspoken about armament plans and weapons deals during IDEX, and more details about the event are expected to be released today. Organisers say while IDEX will focus on the latest technologies to serve the needs of the three wings of the armed forces - the navy, the air force and the army - surveillance and weapons systems used in combating terrorism as well as cyber-wars technologies will also feature.

"I expect many joint ventures to be held between local and international companies," Maj Gen al Ketbi said. mhabboush@thenational.ae

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