The country will host its first major naval defence exhibition, with a diversity of potential and actual threats propelling an increase in regional spending
UAE to host major naval defence expo
ABU DHABI // The UAE next week will host its first major naval defence exhibition. Organisers said there will be exhibits of warships, naval workboats and amphibious craft, fighting equipment, antipiracy and coastal security systems, and communication equipment. International naval vessels will be present.
The Naval Defence Exhibition (Navdex) will take place alongside Idex, the flagship regional defence exhibition and conference.
"Maritime security is becoming more and more important in and around the Arabian Peninsula," said Theodore Karasik, the director of research and development at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma), which is organising the Gulf Defence Conference a day before the two exhibitions.
In October the UAE opened a naval base in Fujairah, on the Gulf of Oman and near the Strait of Hormuz, the "life vein" of the oil trade.
Terrorist and pirate attacks on oil tankers in 2010 and this year underscore the need for greater security in shipping lanes there.
Dr Karasik said the Fujairah Naval Base was highly significant because it showed an attempt by the UAE to have a greater naval presence outside the Strait of Hormuz and towards the Indian Ocean.
There, with strong co-operation from more than 30 countries contributing to naval security, the UAE can help protect shipping lanes, conduct joint naval training and secure maritime borders.
Dr Karasik added that increasing the size of the Emirates' naval force "is in the plan."
Navdex organisers said they expect total naval defence spending in the Gulf and western Indian Ocean to reach US$76.4 billion (Dh280.6bn) between 2010 and 2019. The largest spender was projected to be India, followed by the UAE, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, according to Jane's DS Forecast, a military spending advisory.
Navdex, February 20 to 24 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, is not open to the public. Defence contractors will participate, as well as international and local defence companies and military officers.
Dr Karasik said there is a tendency to build up naval defence on the model of the country's advanced Air Force, with greater use of new technology, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The UAE already has a number of ships on order, while Saudi Arabia is rumoured to be planning to buy ships and maritime patrol aircraft, said Pieter Wezeman, the Middle East expert at SIPRI, a Swedish arms control think-tank. He said it remained to be seen whether the region would be a significant market for military ships and maritime patrol aircraft.
"The UAE may to some extent also want to have naval assets to use in antipiracy in seas bordering Somalia," said Mr Wezeman.
The Gulf may provide an outlet for defence companies amid cuts to military spending in the West, said Mr Wezeman. "As usual, declining military expenditure in the home market puts even more pressure on arms producers to market their products elsewhere."
The UAE has acquired smaller combat ships, including six corvettes, from the Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company, and three others from Italy.
And the UAE has acquired two Dash-8 aircraft from Canada for modification into maritime patrol aircraft with French radars, said Mr Wezeman.
* This article has been amended since original publication. We originally stated the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma) is helping organise Navdex and Idex. In fact, it is organising the Gulf Defence Conference a day before the two exhibitions.
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