The 12th Dubai Airshow kicks off Nov. 17 at the newly opened Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, where sales and attendance numbers are expected to be the largest in its history and will serve to help reshape the global defense and aerospace industry.
Corporate and government officials from around the world will flock to this year’s Dubai Airshow for one critical reason: Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is rapidly becoming a nerve center for global commerce and a crossroads for international travel between East and West, and North and South.
The air show this year will be the key global showcase for displaying cutting-edge aerospace and defense technology. It is where American companies that wish to expand their engagement with international customers must exhibit and be on the ground to meet their customers.
From America’s perspective, the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have long been integral in supporting the US security and defense architecture for the broader Middle East-North Africa region. The UAE has been a key partner to America in the maintenance and security of international trade and energy routes since the country’s establishment just four short decades ago.
The UAE is home to the Jebel Ali Port in Dubai, the largest US Navy port-of-call outside the United States, and to a sizable US Air Force contingent based at Al Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi.
Today, Emirati military forces train and operate side by side with US and other coalition forces on security and humanitarian assistance missions across the broader region, from Afghanistan to Libya.
But now, with a record $22.5 billion in US exports to the UAE in 2012, and the trade numbers up significantly so far this year, a second — and equally notable — cornerstone in the relationship has been cemented.
Further, the importance of the commercial and trade relationship cannot be understated as bilateral trade with the UAE, and foreign direct investment by the Emirates into the US, are directly responsible for creating and sustaining hundreds of thousands of high-quality American jobs.
For its part, the Dubai Airshow provides an international platform for the UAE to highlight its progress in developing state-of-the-art physical and digital infrastructure to support the country’s ambitions to serve as a vital link in the global supply chain.
The show also directly supports federal efforts to open the UAE’s corporate climate to accommodate increased foreign investment from the US and other global partners, and to boost domestic human capital to meet future economic and security challenges.
The new venue for the air show, Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, is between Dubai and neighboring Abu Dhabi and embodies the country’s goal of achieving integration within the UAE across many economic sectors.
In line with the visionary leadership of the UAE’s aim of diversifying its economy away from reliance on oil and gas over the next decade, the new airport showcases the country’s commitment to act as a platform for facilitating new business, trade and investment opportunities in the defense, security and commercial aerospace industries.
The exhibition also provides a global venue for the UAE to highlight its progress in developing its own capabilities in the defense and aerospace arena.
Companies such as Strata Manufacturing, with global operations focused on rapid growth, Mubadala Aerospace, AMMROC, Emirates Advanced Investments, International Golden Group and others will show off their progress in creating capability to become self-sufficient in maintenance, repair and operations work at home and to meaningfully link up with the global supply chain abroad.
Commercially, the show is expected to generate sales that could total over $75 billion in new airplanes, engines and support equipment for the key regional airlines, including Dubai’s Emirates Airlines and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways. Boeing, General Electric and Pratt & Whitney will likely be the largest US recipients of these deals.
Finally, the show is an important opportunity to mark the sale of sensitive military technology. A number of newsworthy announcements are expected with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and other US companies set to make headlines.
Recent reports of the proposed sale of more than $10 billion in new US equipment to the UAE and to Saudi Arabia will likely be bookends on a shelf of new aerospace and defense business that will be announced during the show.
Danny Sebright is president of the US-UAE Business Council and a senior adviser at The Cohen Group in Washington.