Egypt expo reflects progress of Arab military industry

With burgeoning arms imports from the US, Europe and China, Arab countries have swelled profits of international arms makers for decades.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Latest innovations. A visitor inspects military equipment on display at EDEX 2018 in Cairo. (Belal Ahmed)
Latest innovations. A visitor inspects military equipment on display at EDEX 2018 in Cairo. (Belal Ahmed)

CAIRO - Egypt’s first tri-service defence expo, EDEX 2018, brought together hundreds of defence companies from 41 countries, including dozens from Arab states seeking to showcase their defence equipment.

EDEX, a 3-day event that ended December 5, was designed to introduce Egyptian and Arab defence equipment and expertise to national military commanders and officials attending the expo.

A total of 17 national defence companies from the United Arab Emirates participated in the fair, showing a wide range of equipment, including sophisticated weapons systems such as air-to-surface missiles, drones and armoured vehicles.

Sultan Abdullah al-Samahi, acting director-general of the Emirates Defence Companies Council, said the UAE had a long list of domestically made weaponry at the expo and looked to open new markets and partnerships.

“Military industries have reached a very advanced level in our country,” Samahi said. “We produce state-of-the-art weapons that are a lot cheaper than their peers in the same class in other countries.”

Air defence systems, ammunitions, warships and drones are made in the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf country is developing into an important centre for military studies and attracting foreign military students and officers pursuing academic studies.

With burgeoning arms imports from the United States, Europe and China, Arab countries have swelled profits of international arms makers for decades. However, a shift seems to be happening with Arab states manufacturing their own arms.

Instead of working out import deals, many Arab countries sign co-production agreements with major arms makers. That ensures the transfer of technologies, job creation and, most important, self-dependence regarding arms supplies.

Most of the Arab countries that exhibited at EDEX developed national strategies for turning military industries into a main driving force for economic growth within two or three decades.

This was why the Arab military manufacturers at the exhibition had eyes on the military delegates arriving, including representatives of African and Asian armies.

Egyptian Minister of Military Production Mohammed Saeed al-Asaar met with many top officials from other countries, including Cameroon, Rwanda and Sudan, during the expo.

The Egyptian pavilion was busy throughout, with military delegates confirming they would send technical teams to test operational capabilities of weapons exhibited. This weaponry included air defence systems, drones, armoured vehicles, corvettes and training jets. There were also advanced rocket launchers and mine-clearance devices.

“We view military industries as a basic pillar of the economic development we aspire to achieve in our country,” said Abdel Moneim Altras, head of the Arab Manufacturers Organisation, an umbrella group of Egypt’s military-industrial sector. “The industries aim to cover the needs of our army and also bring in revenues by providing the militaries of friendly countries with their needs.”

The organisation operates approximately a dozen factories where research is done on a wide variety of weapons. Apart from developing its own equipment, the organisation works with international arms makers to manufacture high-end weapons in Egypt.

During the exhibition, the organisation signed co-manufacturing deals with defence companies from France, the United States and Portugal.

The same concept of self-dependence was clearly demonstrated in the Saudi pavilion at the exhibition. Eight Saudi defence companies were on hand, bringing with them a startling list of military products.

They included drones, armoured vehicles, machine guns, rocket launchers and advanced military communications equipment.

Saudi Lieutenant-General Abdelatif al-Shahry, spokesman for the Saudi Military Industries Corporation, said these were a few of the weaponry and military tools manufactured in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to have a presence in the Egyptian and African markets,” Shahry said. “Saudi military industries are getting better day after day and they are now capable of competition.”