BEIRUT — Who would’ve anticipated a live, non-virtual defense show to take place during the coronavirus pandemic? Yet the International Defence Exhibition and Conference is opening its doors to trade exhibitors and visitors Feb. 21-25, with more than 1,300 vendors as well as five countries participating for the first time.

In its 15th edition, IDEX and its sister event NAVDEX (the Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition) are among the first global defense conferences taking place in person during the pandemic.

IDEX and NAVDEX are organized by the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, or ADNEC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and the General Command of the UAE Armed Forces. Israel, Azerbaijan, Portugal, Luxemburg and North Macedonia are participating for the first time.

According to a statement from organizers, officials at the event will help stop the spread of COVID-19 by using thermal scanners at all entrances, sanitation and disinfection procedures, and disinfectant fogging machines. All visitors and participants will be required to have a negative result for COVID-19 from a polymerase chain reaction test. In addition, social distancing measures and the wearing of personal protective equipment is mandated across facilities.

“ADNEC has implemented the highest levels of strict precautionary and preventive measures to ensure the safety of visitors and participants, in accordance with the highest global health and safety standards, with a wide raft of precautionary measures being implemented across IDEX and NAVDEX. At ADNEC, we are proud of the arrangements which we have put in place to enable visitor attendance to IDEX and NAVDEX 2021 while protecting the safety of visitors at the event,” said Saeed Al Mansoori, the executive director of Capital Events, a subsidiary of ADNEC.

Al Mansoori told Defense News that Israel’s participation this year following renewed relations between the Jewish state and the UAE under the Abraham Accords is a “proud moment.”

“The participation of the Israeli pavilion in IDEX and NAVDEX 2021 showcases how these strategic exhibitions are at the forefront of the wider region’s peacekeeping efforts, and how IDEX and NAVDEX act as a cornerstone of the Middle East’s broader defense strategy,” Al Mansoori said.

He added that the Israeli pavilion will feature a range of technology and innovation to Abu Dhabi that will foster the transfer of knowledge to local teams and build bridges toward intra-regional collaboration. “We look to foster innovation and collaborate between our two nations, and we are very much looking forward to this during the event,” he said.

NAVDEX is expected to host a series of naval vessels from different countries, which will be on display at ADNEC Marina. Organizers also plan to show off several new naval vessels during the exhibition.

This year’s agenda focuses on cybersecurity, research and development, the defense supply chain, artificial intelligence, and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“This is significant, as it will be the first time that the global defense community has had the chance to meet, to discuss the direction of the worldwide sector and to conduct deals that benefit international peacekeeping efforts,” the organizing committee’s official told Defense News.

Emirati defense conglomerate Edge plans to make more than 40 business announcements over the course of the five-day gathering, unveiling 20-plus products and exhibiting more than 50 capabilities, including autonomous systems and unmanned ground vehicles; precision-guided munitions; offshore patrol vessels; electronic warfare capabilities; and maintenance, repair and operations services.

More specifically, Edge officials told Defense News that the company also plans to introduce new products from subsidiaries Abu Dhabi Ship Building Company and armored vehicle-maker NIMR.

Additionally, some international companies are participating in the event despite ongoing lockdowns in their home countries by sending regional offices or local delegates. Some business interviews are scheduled to take place virtually.

Agnes Helou is a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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