The UAE Armed Forces awarded contracts worth Dh5.03 billion ($1.37bn) on the first day of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference, with the lion’s share going to local companies.
The Armed Forces, which signed a total of 19 contracts, signed seven deals worth Dh1.1bn with international companies, while local companies won contracts worth Dh3.9bn, Staff Brig Gen Mohammed Al Hassani, official spokesman for Idex and Navdex, said on Sunday.
Among the local companies that won contracts was Calidus, which clinched deals valued at Dh1.69bn. Military vehicle manufacturer Nimr was awarded a Dh230 million deal and Ammroc secured a Dh176m contract.
Other UAE-based companies that secured deals included International Golden Group and the Al Masaood company.
US-based Insitu, a Boeing company, won a contract worth Dh405m for the supply of unmanned vehicles. German defence company Rheinmetall won a Dh57.42m deal and France’s Thales clinched a Dh350.6m contract.
"It is a good amount to start for a first day. There is a good mix of local and international companies in the contracts," said Brig Gen Al Hassani.
Idex, which began yesterday in Abu Dhabi, is the Middle East’s largest defence expo. It has drawn industry leaders eager to showcase their latest technology, from drones to armoured vehicles.
The five-day biennial exhibition is the first major defence trade show to take place since the coronavirus pandemic began a year ago.
The total value of deals the UAE is expected to sign this year is expected to be similar to 2019 levels, according to organisers. The Armed Forces awarded contracts worth Dh20.5bn at Idex 2019.
Defence spending by Gulf countries grew by 5.4 per cent to $100bn last year, up from $94.9bn in 2019, according to defence intelligence specialist Janes.
Gulf expenditure on defence is expected to fall by 9.4 per cent this year, before dropping to $89.4bn in 2022 because of lower oil prices and Covid-19, according to Janes.
It expects spending to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
Local and international companies such as Boeing, Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin, France’s Thales, the Naval Group and Saudi Military Industries have a large presence this year.
Defence companies will use Idex as a platform to unveil new products, and all eyes will be on UAE defence conglomerate Edge.
At its sprawling stand, the company is displaying its Halcon missile system and armoured vehicles made by its subsidiary Nimr, among other equipment.
Kalashnikov Concern – the largest Russian manufacturer of small arms, guided artillery shells and high-precision weapons – is displaying its AK-15 rifles among dozens of products.
Countries in the Middle East are "very much top of mind as a growth market" for Boeing, said Torbjorn Sjogren, vice president for international government and defence.
The US aircraft maker projected that government support and services from 2020 to 2029 will be worth $1.4 trillion.
The Middle East represents a share of the services market worth $195bn, with more than half of that dedicated to defence and security services.
Gulf countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, intend to develop their domestic military industries to produce arms locally amid a push to diversify their economies, create jobs and reduce their reliance on imports.
Saudi Arabia will invest about $20bn in its military industry and defence-related research and development over the next decade as part of plans to localise half of its military spending by 2030, according to Ahmad AlOhali, governor of the General Authority for Military Industries.
The kingdom plans to raise its spending on military R&D from 0.2 per cent to 4 per cent by 2030, putting it on par with the global average, said Mr AlOhali.
Participants at this year's Idex will be focused on cyber security, autonomous weapons, advanced technology such as artificial intelligence in defence applications and the protection of supply chains amid the global health crisis.
Organisers announced strict social distancing measures this year to protect public health.