The bi-annual IDEX defense Expo kicked off today in Abu Dhabi with an impressive show of domestic and international weapon systems and an impressive dynamic demonstration. The event demonstrated the rapid response of a well equipped military force battling a threat of irregular force. This scenario is not imaginary in this region. Many countries are grappling with this situation in recent years – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Others – like Turkey and Jordan, succeeded to push it back beyond their borders.

Held under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, IDEX 2017 is held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, where 1,235 companies show the latest defense hardware they can offer. Besides, 125 naval defense companies are participating in the NAVDEX maritime event co-located with IDEX. The biggest participation is from local companies, which show a 17 percent increase from 2015. The largest exhibitor is the Emirates Defence Industries Company, EDIC, a joint venture between Mubadala Development and Tawazun Holding.

Traditionally, the Gulf states often diversify military acquisition among many suppliers from various countries to maintain the widest international support base possible. As the largest defense exhibition in the Middle East and one of the leading global defense events, IDEX provides excellent opportunities for companies to showcase products and solutions tailored specifically for Middle Eastern applications. These include a wide range of land systems and maritime systems highlighted at the adjacent NAVDEX event.


Video courtesy of ArmyRecognition

At the epicenter of world’s conflicts, and with endless financial resources to support defense acquisition, the Gulf States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are among the largest military spenders. While in past years the UAE was a ‘passive customer,’ whose weapon systems were used mainly for parades and exercises since 2011 things have changed as the UAE joined the coalition forces in Libya, and more recently in Yemen. In the recent years, the military forces of the UAE are gaining combat experience and induct modern equipment to replace older and less capable systems.

The growing military industrial capability in the UAE is part of the emirate’s strategic diversification from oil-dependent industry, by increasing self-sufficiency in military industry, growing the industrial base and developing a knowledge-based economy and skilled workforce.

The UAE forces are fighting alongside Saudi troops in Yemen. These military forces are becoming experienced in combat against the Houthis – a tough, well equipped Iranian proxy. This UAE-Saudi coalition suffered significant losses to Houthi missiles – in the air, on the ground, and at sea, and has increasingly fielded improved capabilities, from precision attack to missile defense and heavier armor – to defeat Houthi forces from strongholds they have captured in Yemen.