The second Egypt Defence Expo Cairo (EDEX) opened on 29 November with more participants than the first edition. Over 400 major defence manufacturers, from 40 countries, are exhibiting their wares at the four-day event. Egypt is displaying many new products manufactured locally by the Ministry of Military Production, the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation (AOI), Arab International Optronics (AIO) and the Alexandria Shipyard Company.
EDEX 2021 is building on the success of the first edition. That so many firms decided to take part despite the Covid-19 pandemic is an indication of the importance they attach to the event.
Such a high-profile industrial fair focused on defence industries requires sophisticated planning. This is a crucial criterion for exhibitors keen to enhance their profiles and promote their products in one of the largest and most important armaments markets in the world. Egypt’s ability to attract so many participants is a reflection not just of its status as a pivotal power in the Middle East, but of the balanced nature of Egypt’s foreign policy.
EDEX’s success underlines the efficacy of Egyptian military diplomacy as a component of overall foreign policy. Egypt’s military has been ranked as one of the most advanced armies in the world. EDEX reflects the excellent relations the Egyptian military has established with other, similarly advanced armies, something that can also be seen in the many bilateral and multilateral joint military drills and manoeuvres Egypt conducts with allies.
Egypt’s domestic defence industries are showing great promise and attracting increasing international interest. Among the many exciting new products on display this year are target drones produced by the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation. Designed to operate in tandem with other air defence systems, these unmanned aircraft are fitted with radar technologies that enable them to detect and track enemy aerial and missile weaponry and are a central component of aerial target interceptor systems.
Egypt also exhibiting a variety of new, locally produced ammunition. The Minister of Military Production Mohamed Ahmed Morsi has announced that the ministry’s 16 subsidiary firms will collaborate in producing a locally made multifunction machine gun. Some 265 different parts go into the assembly of this weapon. He added that the production line will be able to produce enough guns to meet the needs of the Egyptian Armed Forces and export to friendly nations.
According to the deputy director of the National Organisation for Military Production, Mohamed Salaheddin, the Egyptian pavilion is also displaying the Sinai 200, the first military armoured vehicle to be completely manufactured in Egypt. A track tank built to rival the Russian BMP, it is reinforced with the highest specification STANAG plate steel can withstand RPG anti-tank missiles. Also on offer in the Egyptian pavilion is the upgraded ST 500, a multipurpose tank reinforced with steel plating.
EDEX 2021 provides an opportunity for exhibitors and visitors to familiarise themselves with the latest advances in military hardware and technology and acts as a major market place for defence manufacturers.
Typical of how business is done at the event, the minister of military production announced that Egypt and South Korea are exploring the details of a collaboration in the joint manufacture of the K2 main battle tank and the K9 howitzer and that the final contracts for these projects are likely to be signed during the expo.
Among the leading international manufacturers exhibiting at EDEX 2021 are Lockheed Martin, the American aerospace research, development and manufacturing firm; Boeing, the US-based global manufacturer of military, civilian and cargo aircraft; MBDA, a leading European manufacturer of missile systems; and Ficantieri, one of the world’s largest shipbuilding groups and the only one active across all sectors of the high-tech marine industry. This Italian firm is one of the manufacturers of the FREMM multipurpose frigate and has begun to work closely with the Egyptian navy.
French participants in the fair include Dassault Aviation, maker of the Rafale fighter jets of which Egypt has many, and Naval Group, the leading European naval defence firm and the manufacturer of Egypt’s Mistral helicopter carrier as well as the first FREMM frigate Egypt acquired. Seven Russian companies are participating, exhibiting, among other wares, Ka-52 and Mi-35B combat helicopters, the Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopter, the Yak-130 training and combat aircraft, and the Rubij coastal tactical missile system. Of course, the Russian pavilion would not be complete without a wide range of Kalashnikov products, including the Lebedev semi-automatic pistol.
EDEX 2021 is also hosting Arab defence manufacturers, most notably from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.