Idex 2013: The International Defence Exhibition and Conference was launched 20 years ago with 350 companies from 24 countries. This week it attracted 1,112 companies from all over the world and already half the floor space has been booked for 2015, Kyle Sinclair and Awad Mustafa report
Idex Abu Dhabi: An exhibition that just grows and grows
ABU DHABI // The UAE signed 55 agreements worth more than Dh14billion at this year's largest ever International Defence Exhibition and Conference (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.
UAE defence firms received the lion's share of the contracts with 35 deals signed with the Armed Forces.
The five-day event attracted more than 80,000 visitors to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre which saw 59 countries exhibiting, with about 500 ministers of defence and military chiefs from around the world in attendance.
Navdex, the naval and maritime security section of Idex, also grew in size from 60 companies two years ago to 80 this year.
Some of the most substantial local deals made by the UAE Armed Forces included the purchase of Dh829.8million of small arms ammunition and Dh720m of laser-guided rockets from Abu Dhabi based Tawazun, the principal sponsor of Idex.
The UAE oil firm, Adnoc, concluded a mammoth contract on day three of the conference worth Dh1.1bn to manage operating facilities and provide fuel for aircrafts and vehicles.
There were also significant deals done with the United States for unmanned Predator drones - in the shape of a Dh722m contract.
But by far the biggest single deal was for 750 mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicles worth Dh1.4bn, also built in the US.
In his closing address to the media, Idex and Navdex chairman Major General Obaid Al Ketbi, member of the Executive Council, said: "Idex and Navdex have given us the chance to create strategic partnerships in accordance with Abu Dhabi's vision for 2030 - to diversify the local economy.
"The conference fills the demand to help countries deal with the challenges they face. When it was launched in 1993, Idex involved 350 participating companies from 24 countries. Today we have succeeded in attracting more than 1,112 exhibiting companies from around the world."
UAE Armed Forces spokesman, Staff Pilot Colonel Tareq Al Bannay, said that the large purchases made by the Armed Forces were not part of an expansion but were "needed to improve capabilities and provide solutions tools".
Col Al Bannay expressed his satisfaction with the number of deals signed with local companies this year and stated that 147 Emirati defence companies took part.
"The global exchange and transfer of technology to the UAE is key and local companies are now able to provide suitable solutions for now and the future," said Col Al Bannay.
He added that although military "training with other nations is ongoing, it was not the purpose of Idex 2013 to strike up any new arrangements in this area".
Officials claimed the primary focus of the conference was aimed at signing contracts for hardware, and the transfer of technology, as opposed to political or diplomatic deals.
At Navdex, Abu Dhabi Ship Building launched its new Baynunah-class corvette and Etihad Ship Building launched the Abu Dhabi class Stealth Submarine Hunter, both made specifically for the UAE Navy.
Not all of the hardware on show this year was what may be considered as "conventional", with the world's first working jetpack, bulletproof kanduras and pink handguns all on display.
Daily live demonstrations featured a host of attractions for visitors, including aerial acrobatics and choreographed marine displays from a range of participating countries.
Preparations are already under way for Idex and Navdex 2015, with plans to expand the area's promenade and dredge a deeper canal that can allow for a greater number of larger ships to moor at the site.
Major General Obaid Al Ketbi concluded by saying that already "more than 50 per cent of the exhibition space has already been booked for Idex 2015".