UAE manufacturers  of military uniforms and body armour are expecting to close deals with various government entities during Idex as they call on customers to buy locally.
Hard Shell, a UAE-based company that produces helmets and bullet-proof vests, is in “healthy talks and constructive discussion” with the Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi about testing its products, said Anil Kant, the company’s chief executive.
“It [the local defence manufacturing industry] is in the nascent stage and can develop further. Buyers are brain-washed to go to the UK or US for the best technology, but we bought this technology here. We are here because we want to save lives and of course there is a commercial side to that,” Kant said.
The company, which currently exports 98 per cent of its products to Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and countries not under US or UN embargoes, hopes to attract more local business.
The problem is that many local buyers assume that the local products are not of the same standard as international ones so local firms should do more to become visible in the UAE, he said.
“Something like the Defence Manufacturing Association, like in the US, would be a good start. It can then lobby the government in the right way forward. In three to five years it could start,” he said, urging the government to buy local products and support the country’s industries.
Hard Shell has a plant in the SAIF zone in Sharjah and produces 1,000 sets of body armour per week with raw materials imported from DuPont.
Other local manufacturers rely mainly on product orders from the UAE government.
Al Naboodah Protection, part of Al Naboodah group that produces bullet-proof vests, army uniforms, backpacks and camouflage jackets, said 75 per cent of its products were sold locally and its biggest client is the UAE Armed Forces.
“We can compete with international companies and our products are better than Asian products because it is better quality,” said Abdullah Al Hosani, retired brigadier general staff and general manager of Al Naboodah Protection.
“The trend in the market is to buy from local companies. There’s directives from higher authorities. And we draw on experience from international companies,” he said.
The company also exports to the GCC and African countries such as Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria, he said. The production capacity of its factory in Ras Al Khor industrial area at Nadd Al Hamar in Dubai is 20,000 to 25,000 bullet proof vests a year.
Al Naboodah Protection has also invested in importing security products that it hopes to sell to airports in the UAE.
These include a fingerprint scanner that detects traces of drugs and explosives, a weather scanner that feeds information to air pilots and a reconnaissance machine that detects chemical or nuclear radiation and other pollutants up to 25 kilometres ahead.
The company is in talks with the UAE Armed Forces for these products, he said.