'The start of the recovery': Idex 2021 opens with big military deals expected

First major in-person exhibition held in Abu Dhabi since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out

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The Middle East’s largest defence fair, showcasing the latest in military technology from drones to armoured vehicles, has opened in Abu Dhabi.

The International Defence Exhibition (Idex) is a biennial display of the most advanced hardware on the planet, where deals worth billions of dirhams are usually sealed.

It is also the first major in-person exhibition held in the capital since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.

Idex will mark the starting point for the resumption of business tourism activities

Idex is set to feature up to 1,000 defence companies across 35,000 square metres of exhibition space, running through the 12 exhibition halls.

The event will also feature live military drills and aerial displays from Al Fursan – the UAE's aerobatics team.

Its sister event, the Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition (Navdex), includes daily demonstrations and the chance to view scores of visiting naval vessels.

Major announcements about new products are expected, and all eyes will be on Emirati defence conglomerate Edge.

Edge, which consists of 25 companies, is expected to unveil a series of products – spanning unnamed vehicles, precision-guided munitions and naval vessels.

The value of deals the UAE is expected to sign is likely to be similar to those achieved in 2019, organisers have said. UAE armed forces awarded Dh20.5 billion ($5.58bn) worth of contracts then.

Gulf countries are increasingly producing military equipment at home to boost self-sufficiency and diversify their economies from oil.

Idex was first held in 1993, and Israel was to be among five new countries participating this year. However, Covid-19 travel curbs imposed by Tel Aviv forced a postponement.

Strict measures are in place to protect public health. International attendees do not have to follow the mandatory 10-day quarantine in place in Abu Dhabi but all those coming from abroad are required to undertake regular PCR tests.

“This edition marks the commencement of the recovery phase from the Covid-19 pandemic, in spite of the ongoing global conditions,” said Maj Gen Staff Pilot Faris Khalaf Al Mazrouei, chairman of the organising committee.

“It will demonstrate how Abu Dhabi and the UAE are ready and able to organise, deliver and host leading international events.

“Idex [and] Navdex … will mark the starting point for the resumption of business tourism activities.”

Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to visit the stands over the next five days, with more than 100 international delegations slated to attend.

At least 80 per cent of companies will be international, with about 15 per cent UAE-based.