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The Biggest Arms Show In Malaysia Turns 30 This Year

April 5, 2018

Via DSA Exhibition and Conference.

The latest installment of Defense Services Asia (DSA) will be held at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Center (MITEC) in Kuala Lumpur from April 16 until 19. This year’s DSA marks the 30th anniversary of the show and the first time it’s being jointly held with NATSEC Asia, which is dedicated to homeland security. Both were organized as a collaboration between DSA, the Malaysian defense ministry, the Malaysia Defense Industry Council (MDIC), and the Malaysian armed forces.

On the weekend before DSA 2018 opens exhibitors are invited to attend the coordinator’s briefing and given ample time for preparing their stands. A press tour for local media is held at MITEC the following day while an evening reception attended by the Malaysian deputy prime minister and the defense minister is scheduled at the Shangri-La Hotel. 21st Century Asian Arms Race (21AAR) is a media partner for DSA 2018.

What always set DSA apart from similar exhibitions in Asia is its size. DSA 2018 will be occupying the entire venue over four days and have an estimated 1,500 exhibitors and 43,000 visitors. This year has 30 national pavilions where companies belonging to a specific country are clustered together. DSA 2018 also boasts “special features” that are taking place for the duration of the event. These are cloisters for B2B meetings, the Chief of Army Roundtable or ChART, a mini-conference about combat medicine, another mini-conference on cybersecurity, a section dedicated to UAVs and combat robotics, and an unspecified “youth programme.”

There are actually two other events that are taking place alongside DSA 2018. These are NATSEC 2018 and the Putrajaya Forum organized by the Malaysian Institute for Defense and Security (MiDAS).

DSA 2018’s organizers have published a complete list of the show’s exhibitors. A variety of Malaysian companies are participating but an equally strong presence from China and the United States, who each have their own pavilions, are going to be major draws for those attending. Among the multitude of firms displaying their stuff a few standouts seem poised to attract earnest buzz.

Foremost is India’s BrahMos Aerospace. It’s hardly a secret the lethal supersonic missile offered by the joint venture is being shopped around Southeast Asia for a handful of years now. Although genuine buyers haven’t materialized, the BrahMos is a tempting weapon system for the Malaysian armed forces, who can choose from air, sea, or shore-launched variants of the same weapon system. The BrahMos cruise missile can be installed on a vessel as small as a corvette, for example.

Another prestigious name at DSA 2018 is Rafale International. The subsidiary of the French aerospace giant is no doubt positioning itself in Southeast Asia, where customers for the expensive Rafale multirole fighter haven’t materialized. Malaysia still hasn’t found a worthy interim airframe to complement its existing squadrons of F/A-18’s and Su-30’s. Is the Rafale a contender? At least the Russians don’t seem to have a strong presence at DSA, so the competition isn’t too intense.

Even more remarkable than the presence of Taiwan’s 202nd, 203rd, and 204th Arsenals (these are state-owned armaments factories) and the crowded South Korea pavilion is Ukraine’s gallant attempt to enter the Malaysian market. Kyiv’s own arms exporting agency, Ukroboronprom, is offering its vast selection of weapons at DSA 2018. Some ASEAN member states are very receptive to Ukrainian arms exports with Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam having paid tens of millions for large weapons contracts in the past decade.

BrahMos, Rafale, and Ukroboronprom are just a few of the companies who are exhibiting at DSA 2018 taking place from April 16 to 19 at MITEC, Kuala Lumpur. Newsworthy contracts might not have been announced yet but these are likely to happen once the show begins.

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