Defence: The show must go on

21 March 2003
The International Defence Exhibition (IDEX 2003) held in Abu Dhabi closed on 20 March under a cloud of uncertainty as the region lurched towards war in Iraq. But after five days of speeches, military displays and behind-the-scenes negotiations, more than AED 500 million ($136 million) worth of defence contracts had either been signed or edged closer to being finalised.

In the end, the sixth IDEX show attracted about 800 international and regional defence contractors to what has grown over the last six years into the biggest defence exhibition in the Middle East. Nevertheless, visitor numbers on the first day were down on previous years, reflecting the growing regional uncertainty.

'The first day is always a quiet day at any show but this year there are certainly less official delegations in attendance,' one exhibitor told MEED. 'But we felt we had to come. Regardless of what happens in Iraq, the Middle East will always remain an important market for us.'

Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company (Gamco)was one of those to take advantage of the show, announcing a deal with BAE Systemsand Rolls Royce, both of the UK, to service Hawk trainer aircraft flown by the UAE Air Force. Under the terms of the deal, Gamco will provide full maintenance and support for the aircraft. Gamco already has extensive service agreements in place to maintain the UAE's fleet of Mirage 2000 and F16 fighters. In addition, the company - which is 30 per cent owned by Bahrain-based Gulf Air - services heavy lift aircraft and tankers based in the Gulf on behalf of the UK's Royal Air Force.

Jordan - represented IDEX by King Abdullah - also used the event as an opportunity to close a deal. The Royal Jordanian Air Force firmed up a memorandum of understanding signed in October for the purchase of 16 EC135 light reconnaissance helicopters from Europe's Eurocopter, part of the EADSgroup.

The biggest contract announced at the show was claimed by Norway's Kongsberg Defence Communications. The company has finalised two deals totalling $70 million for the supply of multi-role radio (MRR) hand-held communications systems to Kuwait and Oman. Kongsberg plans to deliver the MRR equipment in conjunction with its Eratic tactical network over a three-year period to Kuwait. Oman has also selected Eratic - which is yet to come into operation with the Norwegian armed forces - as its primary operating system.

The UAE signed contracts totalling AED 350 million ($95 million) with local suppliers on the second day of the show. Orders placed ranged from bullet-proof jackets to pick-up trucks.

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