The United Arab Emirates’ air force Aerobatic Team, Al-Fursan, performs during the 2019 Dubair Air Show. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images)

DUBAI: The resilience and agility of the aerospace and defense sectors are the two major themes that organizers of the Dubai Airshow — the first of the big international airshows to reopen after COVID-19 — are hoping to project.

The bi-annual five-day event, kicking off here today, features more than 1,200 exhibitors including 200 first-time companies, 80 startups, representatives from 148 countries and more than 160 aircraft on display.

“This year, the show is expected to welcome a big number of global exhibitors, featuring over 20 country pavilions,” Tim Hawes, managing director at show organizers Tarsus F&E LLC, told Breaking Defense. “New country pavilions include Israel, Czech Republic and Belgium while companies like Rafael, Elbit, Accenture, Eurosam, NAFFCO and G42 participating for the first time.” (Israel is displaying as a nation for the first time.)

What sets this year’s edition apart is several “exciting new sectors and feature areas,” Hawes said. “The show will have a major focus on new technologies, so there will be a brand-new conference stage, Tech Xplore, which will highlight how emerging technologies are helping reboot aviation and changing the entire flying experience.”

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The show also serves as a major platform for supporting startups, via the new East-West startup hub VISTA, “giving them access to mentorship programs and a chance to meet with vital decision makers and globally ranked investors to launch, grow and scale their startups,” Hawes added.

One of the biggest highlights, as always, will be the static park and flying display, which will feature some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. These include Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook, Embraer’s KC-390, the Dassault Rafale, Japan’s Kawasaki C-2, Russian Helicopters’ ANSAT, Ka-52 and Mi-28 helos, and Leonardo’s AW609.

The UAE Air Force is showcasing its F-16 Block 60 fighter and its Apache, Blackhawk, and Chinook helos. The American Defense Department is focusing on its C-130J-30, P-8A, KC-46A and F-16 aircraft.

RELATED: Dubai Air Show: Fewer top US officials, more Israelis and a new Russian fighter

Above all, the event will support the UAE’s “Make it in the Emirates” initiative. Taking part under the theme of “Future Possible,”UAE-based EDGE Group will showcase 13 products in the fields of autonomous systems, precision munitions, MRO and training services, aerospace manufacturing, and electronic warfare and intelligence.

Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and managing director of EDGE Group, told Breaking Defense that the company’s presence at the show confirms that the UAE is thriving economically as a world-leading hub of indigenous future technologies.

“This stellar growth, which has seen us increase our product range more than ten-fold during this period, has been fueled by investing in true innovation, and placing huge resource in the development of sovereign capabilities, both in talent and in high-quality manufacturing,” he said.

The Saudis, meanwhile, are looking to capitalizing on this mega exhibition “to grow our business and support the achievement of the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of 50% localization of Saudi Arabia’smilitary expenditure by the end of the decade,” said Walid Abukhaled, CEO of SAMI. 

“This will be achieved through the localisation of expertise and the transfer of knowledge, technology, and production,” he added. 

French group Thales is focusing on sovereignty, localization and sustainable travel, with an eye on local investments.

“Developing sovereign solutions means investing locally into the ecosystem in support of the national visions of the countries we support in the Middle East,” Emmanuel De Roquefeuil, vice president Middle East, told Breaking Defense. “Specific focus areas include air defense and air surveillance systems, drone ecosystem management, sustainable aviation and airport solutions, cybersecurity and localization through Thales Emarat Technologies (TET).”

With that, safety measures remain the utmost priority.

“We are working very closely at the highest possible level within UAE government to ensure the comfort and safety of all attendees, which is our main priority” Hawes explained. “We will strictly follow the guidance of authorities, including Dubai Health Authority, and Dubai Municipality and are following all of the necessary safety precautions required in line with COVID-19 policies.”

Strict measures like social distances, wearing of masks, thermal screening and sanitization, and having a maximum capacity during the exhibition will be implemented.

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