ABU DHABI // Exhibitors will use up every square metre of the National Exhibition Centre when doors to the International Defence Exhibition and Conference open today.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, described Idex yesterday as "among the world's most important defence shows", and expressed his pride in the event's ability to constantly expand.
Since its launch in 1993, Idex has recorded steady year-on-year growth to become the biggest regional exhibition of land, sea and air defence systems. "We are pleased to announce the exhibition has nearly doubled in size since the previous edition," said Idex director Saleh Al Marzooqi.
Eighty companies representing 15 nations have registered to take part, and 5,000 visitors are expected at the 73,000-square-metre venue.
In addition, the quay at the centre has been extended to accommodate six vessels, compared with three before. "Ensuring the exhibition has the facilities needed to meet growing demand, we have expanded the quay wall by 50 per cent and installed escalators facilitating easier movement between Idex and Navdex, the Naval Defence Exhibition," said Mr Al Marzooqi.
Sheikh Mohammed said Idex should not be seen as an arms market, but rather a platform to promote the latest innovations.
"States do not send delegations to exhibitions in order to buy arms," he said.
"They do so to expand their knowledge, learn and view what is new. Armies do not determine their weapon systems within days or weeks, rather they take enough time to study, test and compare between alternatives before they take a decision. Deals that are concluded at such exhibitions are preceded by a decision that is made over months or even years," Sheikh Mohammed said.
"For the UAE, the exhibition offers its Armed Forces an ideal opportunity to update their information and to test new weapons and equipment to help increase their capabilities and readiness."
The UAE will host the largest country pavilion at the exhibition, testament to the growth of its local defence industry.
More than 147 UAE companies will be exhibiting, taking up more than 12,500sqm of exhibition space.
Tawazun will have the largest exhibition space (2,918sqm), and Mubadala has reserved 1,870sqm.
The Ministry of Interior will showcase its "most advanced e-services and some of its latest projects using geographic information systems, which will lead the way in the region", said Maj Gen Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, director general of central operations at Abu Dhabi Police.
"Idex is a real opportunity to stay updated on the latest innovations in information technology," he said.
This year's exhibition growth follows the 12 per cent growth of country pavilions at the last Idex event in 2011.
China, Ukraine and South Africa increased the size of their exhibition space by 77, 53 and 46 per cent respectively, according to Al Ittihad, The National's Arabic-language sister newspaper. The country pavilions of Bulgaria, Austria and the United States expanded by 38, 35 and 28 per cent respectively.
The defence industry is growing significantly worldwide and regionally, and Arab countries' demand for cutting-edge defence products from regional and international suppliers is among the highest rates worldwide.
Defence spending in the Middle East is projected to exceed US$100 billion (Dh367.3bn) by 2015, according to the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, and the defence budgets of the GCC countries and Jordan is expected to be around $80 billion by the same year.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Middle East and North Africa accounted for 8 per cent of the world's military expenditure in 2011.
Data published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showed the volume of worldwide conventional arms transfers in 2007-2011 was 24 per cent higher than in 2002-2006.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the value of arms-transfer agreements with developing nations in 2011 was about $71 billion - more than double the figure of 2010.
Against this backdrop of this fast-growing arms industry, worldwide and regionally, the value of transactions during the present and future editions of Idex are forecast to increase.