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Russian firms showcase guns and missiles at UAE defence expo

Reuters/Amr Alfiky
Russian helicopters are displayed at Navdex, an annual event held alongside the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on February 20 2023

A major defence expo kicked off in the UAE on Monday with Russian firms participating in the maritime section and a strong showing by Israeli companies.

Russian firms, including Kalashnikov and Rosoboronexport, displayed assault rifles, missiles and drones at the Naval Defence & Maritime Security Exhibition (Navdex), part of the biennial International Defence Exhibition event (Idex).

At least three Russian companies approached by Reuters declined to speak.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have not adopted Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, have resisted US pressure to break links with Russia, with which they have energy and economic ties.

The chief executive of BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russia joint venture, said the firm was progressing in talks launched five years ago with the UAE for the firm’s supersonic cruise missiles, which can be launched from sea, land and air.

“We are in conversation of course with the UAE and other neighbouring countries,” Atul D Rane told Reuters, describing the talks with the UAE as advanced after having slowed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

UAE authorities did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Many arms-producing nations vie for influence and contracts from wealthy Gulf Arab countries, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have moved to diversify their defence partners and want to develop their own industries.

The UAE and Bahrain forged ties with Israel in 2020 partly due to a shared concern over Iran, whose missile and drone capabilities are seen as a threat by Gulf Arab states.

Israeli firms had a large presence at the event, including Iron Dome anti-missile system-maker Rafael.

Israel Aerospace Industries held a demonstration of an unmanned vessel with Abu Dhabi Ship Building and Abu Dhabi state-owned defence conglomerate Edge, the first joint demonstration of military equipment between the two countries.

“Our relation is a very good example of the relations between the nations and the companies. We are complementary, one to each other,” Oren Gutter, operational adviser to IAI’s CEO on naval affairs, told Reuters.

Organisers said 65 countries were taking part in Idex, which runs to February 24, including major US defence conglomerates such as Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The UAE said on Monday it signed deals worth AED4.5 billion ($1.23 billion) with local and international firms, including a AED1.5 billion deal with Indonesian firm PT Pal to procure multi-mission vessels and a AED421 million contract with France’s Thales LAS for GM403 radars.