Kazakhstan's military-industrial complex struts its stuff
Casting for the next Bruce Lee? A new krav maga/tai chi fusion workout?
No, it's part of the opening ceremony of Central Asia's first ever defense exposition, KADEX, being held over the next four days in Astana, Kazakhstan. Besides these soldiers, the opening ceremony featured aerobatics of MiG-29 and Su-27 fighter jets, paratroopers dropping in and a “female team” of electronic warfare specialists, as the PA announcer put it. And it was all observed by Kazakhstan's president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul.
Occasional goofiness of the opening ceremony aside, the event is a big deal for Kazakhstan. While its defense budget is tight now because of the effects of the global financial crisis, in coming years oil money will be rolling in and Kazakhstan's government has expressed its intention to build up its military. And Kazakhstan is also, in an attempt to diversify its economy beyond just oil and natural gas, trying to develop a local arms industry to make military equipment for export.
So Kazakhstan has invited foreign militaries to come to KADEX and look at what Kazakhstani companies have to offer, and foreign companies to come and show their wares to Kazakhstan's military. In addition to Gul, some of the high-level delegates included the defense ministers of Iran and China, and the deputy defense minister of South Korea. And some of the big-name defense companies who are exhibiting here include General Dynamics and Raytheon from the U.S., France's Thales and EADS, Israel's Elbit and IAI, China's NORINCO and of course many Russian companies.
After the opening ceremony, Nazarbayev and Gul took a tour of some of the equipment on offer, like this Israeli drone aircraft:
And here, a Kazakh general is showing off one of the country's fighter jets (I could overhear him explaining to Nazarbayev that it had “both air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles”):
I'm happy to report that The Bug Pit that it has hit the road, and is in Astana covering the event. Over the next few days I'll be providing more reports, both here and on EurasiaNet proper. It should be a good show, so stay tuned.