MOSCOW — The Russian defense and technology company Rostec is set to make a splash at this year’s IDEX show in the United Arab Emirates with its first international offering of naval air and missile defense systems, as well as new small arms targeting the Middle Eastern market.
Rostec’s presence at the International Defence Exhibition and Conference will be spearheaded by CEO Sergei Chemezov. IDEX is always a major event for the world’s largest defense companies, but it has certainly become more important for Russian manufacturers in recent years, as Western sanctions have closed American and European markets to Russian companies. Attention in Russia has shifted heavily to the growing Middle Eastern markets.
More than 50 Russian companies are set to participate in this year’s IDEX. Chemezov, in comments carried by the Russian Tass news agency on Friday, said that “for us, Middle Eastern and North African countries are extremely important markets where we implement numerous projects both in the civilian sector and in defense. ... In total, about 1,000 exhibits will be on display.”
Beyond the Middle East, Russia continues to actively market to China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia. Eastern countries make up for almost half of Russia’s arms exports, Tass reported.
Russia always puts on a big show at IDEX. At last year’s conference, Russian companies rented out almost 1,400 square meters of floor space and brought out a number of military aircraft — such as the Su-35 and MiG-29 — as well as an array of tanks, armored vehicles, air defense systems and small arms.
Rostec will kick off this year with briefings held by Chemezov and international cooperation director Viktor Kladov on Feb. 18. Rostec says the two will touch on a range of topics, with a focus on Russia’s presence in the Middle Eastern market, the search for public-private partnerships and the status of aviation projects such as the MC-21 commercial airliner.
Much of the equipment Russia will bring to this years IDEX show will be familiar to attendees, and have seen heavy use in Russia’s campaign in Syria — such as the Su-35 and MiG-29 fighter jets. It’s likely Mideast customers are very familiar with Russian small arms and tanks, but Rostec is bringing a number of new offerings to the show this year.
One piece of hardware the company is set to unveil for the first time internationally is the Pantsir-ME shipborne air defense missile and artillery system. Pantsir will be located at the center of the Russian expedition, and a demonstration of the system is promised on Feb. 18 and 19.
“Pantsir-ME can be installed on most Russian warships and is very well fit for ships manufactured by other countries,” Alexander Mikheev, director general of the Russian government’s arms clearinghouse Rosoboronexport, said in a statement. “I am confided that it has very good export prospects in the Arab countries, southeast Asia and Latin America.
The Pantsir-ME system can be mounted on vessels displacing more than 300 tons, according to a joint Rosoboronexport-Rostec statement. They go on to claim that Pantsir’s missile complement can simultaneously fire on four targets at a distance of 20 kilometers, with a ceiling of 15 kilometers.
But the missiles are only the first advertised line of defense. Should they miss their target, Russia claims “the target will be hit by the artillery fire with a 100 percent guarantee.” The magic behind the claim is an advertised “completely automated” process from target acquisition to firing using a combined radio and optical-control system.
There is no analogous system found anywhere in the world, according to Rostec official Sergey Abramov, who noted that IDEX is a perfect platform to market Pantsir to customers in the Middle East and North Africa — “the strategic region of Rostec’s presence,” he said.
The Russian exhibition’s targeting of Mideast clients at IDEX 2019 also extends into the field of small arms. The big news from Russia’s gun industry: The Kalashnikov AK200 series assault rifles have been cleared for export. The AK200 is an export version of the new AK-12 assault rifle designed for the Russian military.
Rosoboronexport’s Mikheev expects “strong demand” for the rifle from Middle Eastern customers.
Rostec and Rosoboronexport claim the AK-200 builds upon the key characteristics of previous “AK” models, namely reliability, durability and easy upkeep. The new features include a Picatinny rail for attacking equipment, an adjustable butt plate and other ergonomic features. The weapon is marketed as an “AK” model for more discerning customers.
“The Kalashnikov AK200 series rifles are our strategic product in the export area,” according to Kalashnikov Director General Vladimir Dmitriev.
Several variants of the AK200 pattern will be offered to customers, designated as the AK200, AK203, AK204 and AK205. The rifles will be presented during small arms negotiations with potential customers at IDEX.
Matthew Bodner covered Russian affairs for Defense News.