More than 1,350 exhibiting companies from 65 nations are present at the major international exhibition of weapons systems in Abu Dhabi

Tension over Ukraine war prompts arms industry to flock to Emirates' IDEX show

PHOTO/WAM - The President of the Union of Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, exercises patronage of IDEX, which he believes is an open showcase for deals between defence companies

The fever unleashed by the rearmament that floods practically all the large, small and medium-sized nations of the five continents is an indisputable reality that threatens coexistence in Europe and the entire planet.

The 16th International Defence Exhibition (IDEX), under the patronage of the President of the Union of Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is being held from 20 to 24 February in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Gulf state. The Emirati leader considers IDEX to be "an open space for meetings, the exchange of experiences and agreements between companies in the defence sector".

The war in Ukraine and the political and military support provided by the Biden Administration and its allies to the government in Kiev have caused the largest biennial event in the Middle East - one of the three most important arms fairs in the world - to arouse great interest and expectation in the international weapon systems industry.


As a result of a combination of circumstances, the IDEX 2023 show opened by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, has attracted 1,350 exhibiting companies from 65 nations around the world, far exceeding the 900 companies from 59 countries that attended in 2021. And 130,000 trade visitors are expected to attend.

The presence of Spanish industry at IDEX 2023 has also increased compared to the edition of two years ago and more than twenty companies have come to the call of Abu Dhabi: Arquimea, ELS, Escribano E&M, Expal, GMS Plesium, Hisdesat, IGG-Escribano, Innovation For Shelter, Instalaza, Iraundi, Jomipsa, Nammo Palencia, Navantia, Avnav-NTT Data, SAES, Satlantis, SDLE, Sener Aerospace, Tecnobit and Urovesa. Most of them are gathered under a pavilion coordinated by TEDAE, the Spanish Association of Defence, Aeronautics, Security and Space Technology Companies.

A large national representation

Spanish executives have come to the Gulf state to showcase their latest innovations and seal contracts in the fields of shipbuilding, satellite communications, high-resolution space-based observation, advanced electronics, smart and conventional munitions, unmanned aerial and ground systems, weapons systems and much more. They also aim to lay the foundations for agreements and strategic alliances with industries in third countries.

To accommodate the high demand for stands at this year's event, the organisers of IDEX 2023 have had to add a new 2,200 square metre covered pavilion, expanding the exhibition area to 165,000 square metres, a 20% increase over 2021. 

The host country's pavilion, the Emirates, at 23,700 square metres, hosts 180 national exhibitors and is the largest of all the pavilions. It is followed in size and number of companies by Turkey and the United States. 


The number of official delegations attending IDEX 2023 has also grown. The Organising Committee has reported that 350 delegations from different countries from all five continents have confirmed their attendance, which is a disproportionate growth compared to the previous edition.

Russia has not been excluded from the show. Its companies and weapons systems are exhibiting at IDEX 2023, both combat-proven and newly developed. Russia's state-owned arms export company Rosoboronexport is offering the main products in its sales portfolio: combat aircraft and helicopters, armoured cars and armoured vehicles, anti-aircraft missile systems and armed drones.

In the presence of Russian authorities and businessmen

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov visited IDEX 2023 on the day of its inauguration and pointed out that, for Moscow, the Emirates is "the leading Arab country in terms of trade", to the extent that transactions in 2022 increased by 68% and reached $9 billion. Rosoboronexport CEO Alexander Mikheev described the Middle Eastern countries as "important partners".

IDEX 2023 is being held in parallel with the seventh edition of the Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition NAVDEX 2023, an exhibition dedicated exclusively to showcasing progress in naval defence and maritime and coastal security technologies, equipment and services.


NAVDEX 2023 has also experienced significant growth. For the first time it is being held in the new 10,000 square metre ADNEC Marina Hall, the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Coastal patrol vessels from Pakistan, Bahrain, Great Britain, Italy, China, Kuwait, India and the Emirates have been moored there. The total floor space has grown to 57,000 square metres, 35% larger than that on offer in 2021 to accommodate almost three times as many exhibitors.

The prelude to both exhibitions was the International Defence Conference (IDC 2023), which on 19 February brought together more than a thousand senior ministers, heads of defence companies and senior officers from the armed forces of many countries to exchange views on emerging and disruptive new technologies. 


In one of the conference's four sessions, dedicated to discussing the impact of emerging technologies on modern operations and the future of warfare, the head of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, anticipated that his goal by the end of 2023 is to "grow the unmanned fleet and our partners' fleets to have a hundred ships in the region for patrol missions".