Because we at FOB are at the service of our faithful readers, we ignored the à priori, the recommandations of the foreign ministry, put up with the heat and confronted the “gastronomic shock” to attend one of the last defence trade shows of the year: IDEAS (International Defence Exhibition And Seminar), organised every two years in Karachi, the economic powerhouse of Pakistan.
“Pakistan is a State inside an army,” a local journalist joked. An active army of 682,000 men and women who form the 7th military power in the world and who need to be equipped to fight the Taliban, counter the territorial ambitions of China and India and deal with internal instability.
This peculiar context has encouraged the creation and development of an ambivalent national industry which has produced both the first MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle and the latest mule saddle, and where one can find side by side the latest jamming system and a licenced, gold-plated copy of the venerable, 50-year old MP5 submachine-gun.
Nevertheless, despite its substantial capacity to innovate, Pakistan still imports most of its equipment. Hence a large foreign contingent at the 9th IDEAS show, dominated by the presence of China, Turkey and… France. Because, yes, the Made in France, is quite popular in Pakistan. And to take advantage of this there were at least a dozen exhibitors, including MBDA, Thales, Safran, CNIM and ECA Group.
MBDA, represented here by its Italian branch, finalised in 2010 deliveries of the SPADA ground-based air defence system which is now in service with the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The missile-house is now considering not only supplying more SPADA 2000s to the PAF, but also “plans to supply a few batteries to the ground forces,” MBDA told us. As the latter are looking for a more mobile system, MBDA last year proposed a technical solution with a view to opening negotiations with the Pakistani ground forces.
The two defence electronics giants, Safran, via its Swiss subsidiary Vectronix, and Thales centred their stands on optronics. Pakistan is an historical client for Thales’ optronics division which has delivered almost 1,500 Catherine FC thermal cameras to the Pakistani security forces since 2005. In the wake of this success, the group is now seeking to have the Sophie-XF laser designator, released in 2014, evaluated by the Pakistani military.
As for Vectronix, it was showing the PLRF 25C pocket laser sight, the Moskito TI multipurpose target locator and the STERNA non-magnetic target acquisition system.
Because there are no countries without waterways that need to be crossed, it was not surprising to find CNIM here. Since 2014, this bridging specialist is in competition to supply 26 motorised floating bridges to the Pakistani army. Following a test phase, CNIM and its Chinese and Pakistani competitors are now negotiating. Apart from the qualities of a battle-proven system “CNIM guarantees a minimum 30-year life-span and will supply complete logistical support,” a local representative of the company told us.
For its first participation at the show, the ECA Group, apart from promoting its fleet of ground robots, chose to centre its offer on the renovation of the Pakistan Navy’s Agosta submarines.