Jordan’s defense know-how will likely take center stage at this month’s SOFEX special forces expo.
Founded in 1996 by HM King Abdullah, the Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference—otherwise known as SOFEX—has become a huge draw for the global defense industry.
Jordan is hosting the eleventh edition of SOFEX this month. The four-day event, which is set to focus on how special forces can adapt to hybrid warfare, will include a series of seminars delivered by top military officials from around the world. A sprawling exhibition space will also be used to demonstrate the latest defense equipment and tactics. Representatives from some 40 countries are expected to attend, many of whom are expected to ink deals worth millions of dollars.
Here, HRH Lieutenant General Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein, and SOFEX Managing Director Amer Tabbah, explain why the biannual event has become so important to Jordan’s defense industry and overall economy.
HRH Lieutenant General Prince Feisal Bin Al Hussein
SOFEX – Chairman of the Board
How is SOFEX used to highlight Jordan’s defense industry?
The King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) and the KADDB Investment Group (KIG) provide a wide array of products for various defense requirements; with solutions for armored and special purpose vehicles, personal protection products, state-of-the–art metal forming technologies, night vision and thermal imaging systems, in addition to ammunition and meals ready to eat (MREs).
The market studies performed by KADDB about the general trends help them define the exact needs of customers, therefore, customizing their solutions to meet different customers’ requirements. KADDB products have been raised as an example of excellence when it comes to the quality and the rigorous testing and evaluation required by the Jordan Armed Forces/Arab Army, numerous countries, and UN peacekeeping organizations. All of KADDB’s products are tested to international standards that will guarantee optimum performance and enhanced capabilities in the four following business clusters; automotive and industrial land systems, arms and ammunition, troop’s products, and finally, the electronic and electro-optics cluster. All of this will be showcased in the Jordanian pavilion this May at SOFEX, which will be held here in Amman and will accommodate the latest technologically advanced defense products that KADDB is eager to display.
Where does Jordan’s defense industry export to?
KADDB currently provides its products and services mainly to meet the Jordan Armed Forces needs and requirements and several other countries. Yet this doesn’t clearly define their scope of involvement worldwide as the fluctuation of these exports varies immensely within each year. As KADDB have always maintained a steady relationship with countries they export products to, they have found great potential in Africa which they look to support and provide assistance to especially in areas that suffer certain geopolitical challenges. Correspondingly, their involvement with the MENA region has been a main focus of KADDB over the last decade. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily void KADDB’s presence in other markets, as their products have proven very successful in many areas around the globe especially with the wide variety of specified and customized products that are designed, engineered, and produced to meet the customization required of the Jordan Armed forces and other customers.
KADDB always aims to lead in innovation and provision of optimal solutions in the fields of regional defense and security, and to be the partner of choice in the Middle East and Africa, offering a growing, strategic portfolio of defense and security businesses.
What role is Jordan’s defense industry playing in ensuring regional stability?
Jordan has proven over many decades its ability to maintain stability throughout different crises and continuing our process of political and economic reform. As many other countries in the world are, Jordan and its neighboring countries are facing a challenging period securing borders and countering-terrorism. As Jordan strives for peace in the region and internationally, KADDB works to reinforce that role by providing the Jordan Armed Forces and our friends in the region that are facing challenges with innovative defense equipment and cutting-edge security solutions that deliver superior performance and comfort for troops. In return that will facilitate borders protection to ensure the security of the country and its civilians.
Are the Jordan Armed Forces prepared to face the threats of the twenty-first century?
The Jordan Armed Forces, which are one of the main focus of His Majesty King Abdullah II, are keeping up with the latest defense technologies and training that will enable them to protect Jordan and its resources.
The Jordan Armed Forces have become an exemplary model for armies in the region and the world alike, setting an example in performance, training, and technology.
The Jordan Armed Forces cooperation and good relations with a great number of armies around the world, in addition to their fine reputation, have played a significant role in reinforcing their constant participation in international peacekeeping missions around the world, not to mention their constant humanitarian mission.
I would like to point out that the recent years have presented a number of challenges and events that escalated the violence and terrorism to an alarming level in the region, creating a great need to bring forces together to defy this dangerous phenomenon. This sheds light on the greater importance of SOFEX, which is specialized in showcasing security and special forces’ equipment being the main players that deal with terrorism issues.
SOFEX provides the Jordan Armed Forces with the perfect opportunity to update their information and test new technologies and equipment.
SOFEX Managing Director
Who are the participants in this year’s session?
This year, we will be hosting more than 360 companies from approximately 40 countries, a record achievement in the history of SOFEX. The number of participating countries is on a steady rise, and we greatly value the premium quality of products that will be showcased at SOFEX 2016 due to the current global situation, which mandates a focus on homeland security and its reinforcement.
I would like to reaffirm that SOFEX is primarily focused on introducing the world to the Jordanian defence industry, which is spearheaded by KADDB—which in this edition will be unveiling many new products. Furthermore, SOFEX is often leveraged by defence industries across the region to showcase their products and achievements, becoming globally renowned as a progressive meeting place for the highest and most diversified number of official delegations from around the world.
Can you explain what the theme of this year’s SOFEX is all about?
MESOC (Special Operations Commanders Conference in the Middle East) will address the hybrid threat which refers to the twenty-first Century insurgency warfare or guerrilla warfare. It’s how regular militaries are confronting an enemy that is non-state actor, and using a mixture of conventional warfare and guerrilla warfare along with sophisticated information campaigns utilizing social media to maximize the impact of its activities on a universal scale. Many groups have adopted hybrid warfare in their respective showdown with the regular forces on various fronts. This constitutes the biggest challenge to modern armies and specifically Special Operations Forces.
What agreements could emerge from this year’s SOFEX?
Since the inception of SOFEX in 1996, each edition has culminated in the signing of numerous agreements between participating companies and government representatives from across the globe, especially considering that the event serves as a hub for cutting-edge technologies utilized by the special operations forces of these governments. In this upcoming edition of SOFEX, we anticipate to seal a significant number of important deals and partnerships between all involved parties.
SOFEX 2016 is taking place during a critical period where a notable number of countries are facing many difficult challenges due to the prevalent lack of security both regionally and internationally, thus emphasizing the instrumental role of this particular edition and highlighting the main reason behind the increased interest we are witnessing from around the world.
The agreements between participating governments and exhibitors continue throughout the period between the SOFEX events.
Why is SOFEX important to Jordan and its economy as a whole?
SOFEX contributes to the Jordanian economy on many fronts. As one of the largest events organized in Jordan it impacts its economy both directly and indirectly. Directly, as it spans across many sectors of the economy and many professions. Indirectly it opens the door for many businesses and sectors of all types, large, medium, or small to meet and collaborate with both the organizers and the exhibitors for new business opportunities.
The direct beneficiaries of the exhibition and conference are obviously the hospitality, transportation, and tourism industries, and large benefits are also made by the Jordanian service providers and suppliers. From the booth builders, metal smiths, carpenters, electricians and other craftsmen to the PR, shipping and freight, IT, catering, cleaning and various equipment rental companies that offer their services to SOFEX and the exhibitors. The economic multipliers are maximized because SOFEX, as a matter of policy, only engages with local suppliers.
One of the less obvious contributions of SOFEX is the exposure it provides to the foreign exhibitors, delegates, and visitors to Jordan.
How has SOFEX developed since its inception?
SOFEX, like every project in any sector started small and grew to what it is today. 2016 will be SOFEX’s eleventh edition, which means it has been around for 20 years. We have statistics that date back to 2004 that show that the 2016 edition, a record year itself, will have accrued more than 300 percent growth in terms of numbers of exhibitors and space sold. We moved from being a two halls exhibitions to a six halls exhibition, we have been ranked as number one in the world within the special forces exhibition industry for the past five years.
SOFEX’s success can be attributed to His Majesty’s vision back in 1996 that the Special Operations Forces units in all the armies of the world will be called upon to play a different and a much more important role than what was the perception back then. They will have to be equipped and trained differently to fulfill this new role. That was the start of SOFEX in 1996.
SOFEX 2016 is sold-out to capacity yet again and the number of exhibitors will top 360 from over 35 countries. We will be hosting more than 100 high level international delegations from all the continents of the globe. This, obviously, requires high quality of services to be provided. The Jordanian pavilion will be the largest pavilion in the show and will present its innovations in a high-tech environment.
What are some of the challenges you face?
The main challenge is to represent the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the global arena in a proficient and professional manner. We also work to inform the stakeholders of the significant role that the Kingdom and its armed forces play in the peacekeeping and humanitarian spheres as well as to help promote the innovative equipment and services that the Jordanian defense industry, spearheaded by KADDB, has to offer and thus facilitate the partnerships for new technologies.
The misconceptions of what SOFEX is and does with all its achievements and the limited budget at its disposal is a challenge that we are diluting at every edition.
What are you hoping for SOFEX’s future and how do you see it developing further?
SOFEX started as an exhibition, it’s now an exhibition, a conference, and a warrior competition. SOFEX will stay focused on its niche where it has achieved a paramount ranking around the world and where it has become a reference. With the guidance of His Majesty King Abdullah II and the chairmanship of His Royal Highness Prince Feisal and the support of the Jordan Armed Forces/the Arab Army and the security agencies, we aspire to develop SOFEX to continue to be a reference in special operations equipment and global dialogue, and to be able to bring many of the innovative technologies to Jordan.
SOFEX is a member of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) since 2006. We have been elected by our peers to the board of directors of that prestigious international association as well as the vice-chairmanship for the Middle East and Africa. We want to use this experience and network to help the growing exhibition industry in Jordan.