The Dubai Air Show was first launched in 1986 under the name of “Arab Air”. Since then it has evolved into one of the largest and most important events in the aeronautics calendar.
Regional governments have invested some 7.1 billion euros in airports and infrastructure to support this growth.
This year, the biennial show is set to top 2013’s offer in terms of size, with over 1,110 exhibitors and some 65,000 visitors,
So what can we expect from the 2015 edition? In terms of purchases and orders, specialists believe expectations are lower than in in the past.
As Ben Moores, IHS analyst at Aerospace, Defence & Security explains: “Because of the great previous orders, total orders will be much lower than previous editions. In fact, there could be a record lack of orders.”
In fact, all airlines in the region already have full order books for long haul aircrafts, with the only exceptions being Oman Air and Saudi Arabia.
The ‘Big Two’ manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing, do not necessarily need new orders ; they are seeking primarily to increase their production rates (Airbus for example has 60 A320s to assemble by mid-2019) and reducing their backlogs has become the priority.
The Dubai Airshow 2015 will be dominated by the presence of arms manufacturers as Gulf states assess their security needs in a region on edge.
“The focus will be on military for the reason that the security environment in the region is deteriorating further,” says Mustafa Alani, director of Defence and Security at the think-tank Gulf Resarch Centre (GRC).
Security in the Gulf and wider Middle East is at its most fragile for years, with the region’s conflicts sending hundreds of thousands of
refugees into Europe and with ISIS expanding its campaign of bombings from Iraq and Syria into the Gulf Arab states, Yemen, Libya and Egypt.
The region is the largest market driver in the arms industry, with billions of euros spent annually on military equipment. The fighting in Syria and Yemen may bolster demand for defence hardware, though few deals will be signed at the show itself.
A recent deal between Iran and world powers over the country’s nuclear activities has rattled states on the other side of the Gulf, while last week’s Russian airliner crash in Egypt has increased the focus on security concerns.
“This will mostly be a military show,” agrees Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at the Virginia-based Teal Group.
The UAE has been in on-off talks for 60 fighters, specifically France’s Dassault Aviation for Rafales and Britain’s BAE Systems for Eurofighter Typhoons.
While orders might not come close to those seen in 2013, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) – otherwise known as drones – will feature at the show for the first time. In a sign of the growth of this part of the market, they will also take part in the flying display this year.
Event organisers say the boom in the UAV market, both commercially and militarily, is having an “increasingly important impact” on the aerospace industry and drones will have a designated segment at the event.
A ‘premiere’ for the show will be the presence of the new-born United Arab Emirates Space Agency. The agency was only created in 2014 and has already invested over five billion euros in space technologies.
Last month, the group joined the International Space Exploration Coordination Group, which consists of 14 space agencies such as NASA and the European Space Agency.
The agency will showcase an interactive 3D model of the planets of the solar system to offer visitors an opportunity to move between the planets and learn about their different terrain through touch technology.
The stand will also feature a photo booth, which will allow visitors to take pictures with different space-themed backgrounds.
Another sign of this growth in the Dubai Airshow 2015, comes with the return of a number of US exhibitors after several years of absence and also a “US Pavilion”.