x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

1993: Arms industry gathers in Abu Dhabi

40 years of the UAE: The first International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in the capital attracted more than 350 companies from 34 countries.

The first International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in the capital attracted more than 350 companies from 34 countries, an impressive initial showing for the event that would eventually become the largest defence and security exhibition in the Middle East.

The February 1993 debut of Idex marked the first time eastern and western defence manufacturers "took the opportunity … to battle for a slice of the still-lucrative Gulf arms market", according to an issue of Flight International magazine published at the time. "Much of the interest focused on missile developments from Russia and a rehabilitated South Africa, which both had a large presence."

Idex and its partner, Naval Defence Exhibition (Navdex), were set up to showcase the latest technologies in defence equipment services for land, sea and airborne systems. Local, regional and international delegations, procurement officials, industry analysts, military strategists and defence contractors typically attended.

The biennial arms fair has grown by leaps and bounds, surpassing 1,000 participants from 52 countries and Dh14.5 billion in orders in 2011, the show's 10th edition. More than 60,000 visitors attended Idex this year.

This year's exhibition also featured the launch of educational and training programmes for Emiratis, an indication of the country's plan to develop a local skill set for the defence industry.

* Jen Thomas