Growing Show: Visitors mill about the Special Operations Forces Exhibition & Conference (SOFEX) trade show on May 6. The show drew more than 360 exhibitors from 35 countries. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)
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AMMAN, JORDAN — Despite the early close of the Middle East Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference (SOFEX) due to flooding, patrons, organizers, sponsors and other participants will look back on an expanded trade show that brought together all areas of the special operations world.
The Middle East’s biggest special operations exhibition grew this year, with more than 360 exhibitors from 35 countries — a 10 percent increase since 2012.
This edition saw the signing of two major contracts by the Jordanian armed forces and the delivery of a Jordanian-ATK-developed aircraft.
The show also saw a special focus on light armored vehicles. Oshkosh Defense introduced its new mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicle (M-ATV) variants during the exhibition.
Serbian defense contractor Yugoimport exhibited its upgraded Nora 155mm self-propelled artillery system, alongside other key products. The Nora-B52 K-1 truck-mounted 52-caliber SP artillery system, upgraded from the basic Nora-B52 KE weapon, features a more accurate and rapid system. According to a company spokesman, the firm is looking to expand its market aggressively in the region and the Far East.
The combat-proven Oshkosh Defense M-ATV family of vehicles has received many inquiries and increased interest from various governments, according to Serge Buchakjian, senior vice president and general manager of international business.
“The interest has been quite high during the show and people are acknowledging that Oshkosh is here to meet a more diverse range of mission requirements and needs for armed forces in the Middle East, North Africa region, and around the world,” Buchakjian said.
The M-ATV family of vehicles includes two multimission models — the M-ATV Standard and M-ATV Extended — each with multiple variants. The M-ATV Standard is designed to provide response and support capabilities for a range of offensive and defensive off-road missions. The M-ATV Extended delivers additional troops and equipment to support a wider assortment of missions, such as mounted infantry support, explosive ordnance support and command-and-control.
“The Oshkosh M-ATV already stands alone as the battle-tested, highly mobile MRAP of choice for a full range of missions,” said John Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense. “Our new M-ATV variants expand on this life-saving platform to address a more diverse mix of mission profiles and specialized functionality, threat levels and cost targets, so troops get the vehicle that’s right for their specific needs.”
Oshkosh Defense also had its light combat tactical all-terrain vehicle (L-ATV) on display. According to the company, the L-ATV was designed to meet a new level of protected mobility to replace decades-old light vehicle fleets that lack protection against improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.
The L-ATV uses the TAK-4i intelligent independent suspension system to enable 25 percent improved wheel travel and 70 percent improved speeds in off-road terrain compared to today’s best-performing MRAP vehicles in off-road environments.
Nexter Systems of France also presented its wheeled armored fighting vehicles and the CAESAR 155mm/52-caliber self-propelled artillery system at the show.
At the show, Jordan signed a letter of offer and acceptance to be come the first international customer of BAE Systems’ advanced precision-kill weapon system (APKWS) laser-guided rockets. The guided 2.75-inch rocket uses semi-active laser guidance technology to strike soft and lightly armored targets in confined areas. The Jordanian forces installed it in their just-delivered C-235 transport aircraft.
ATK was contracted by the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) to modify two of the country’s C-235 transport aircraft into capable and cost-effective aircraft.
The system integration and aircraft modifications conducted by ATK and KADDB converted the C-235 cargo plane into a multimission gunship.
In addition to this delivery, KADDB signed an industrial partnership contract with South Africa’s Paramount Group.
The new South African-Jordanian industrial partnership has been described as a “game changer” for the Middle East defense industry by its benefactors.
According to Ivor Ichikowitz, chairman of the Paramount Group, the partnership resulted in the inception of Arabian Defense Industries (ADI) and will see the production of South African defense technologies in Jordan modified to suit the needs of armed forces across the Middle East and North Africa.
ADI will be able to provide solutions to meet customers’ requirements, according to Shadi Ramzi al-Majali KADDB chairman.
“The region is moving away from being consumers of defense and aerospace technologies to the manufacture of our own products and technologies,” Majali said. “It is here where our respective industries have found important synergies that will act as a catalyst for innovation and industrialization.”
“We are already supported by a number of governments in the Middle East, which makes the establishment of ADI one of the most exciting developments in the defense industry today,” Ichikowitz said.
The company will present a range of defense technologies, including Paramount’s 6x6 infantry combat vehicle, Mbombe, aerospace solutions, modernization and upgrading capability of Hawk fighter aircraft, Mi-17 and Mi-24 Russian helicopters and the Super Puma. The Jordanian-developed products will include the Stallion II, Dawsar 8x8 multi-purpose platform, self-propelled 105mm gun, remote weapon station, and the pan-tilt platform.
“The Middle East today is probably the largest procurer of defense technology in the world and as the global geopolitical scene is changing it will likely remain the biggest procurer,” Ichikowitz said.
“In the past all the sales in the Middle East have been just buy and sell, there has been very little technology transfer and very little manufacturing and it has been my philosophy that the next generation of defense deals is going to be about partnerships, technology transfer, manufacture and joint technology transfer.” ■