Sofex Arms Fair - Daily Mail
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Sofex Arms Fair - Daily Mail
I bolded a few things I personally found interesting... oh and check the link to the articles page if you want to see the pictures.

Quote:Arising column of smoke draws a smudged line through the clean blue sky.

Terrorists wearing Arab scarves prowl across the roof while their flat bed truck armed with a 50mm machine gun is parked out on the runway.

Inside the departure lounge 20 hostages are being held by armed gunmen.

Overhead, unseen and unheard, a string of parachutists from Jordan’s Royal Special Forces hit the ground running, gathering in their ’chutes.

They quickly position snipers, scout the area and call in air support. A rapid assault begins with two F-16s swooping along the line of the runway.

The terrorist truck is instantly vapourised; the pressure wave rolling across the desert floor.

Suddenly from nowhere two MD 500 scout helicopters pop up, their mini-guns ripping into fleeing terrorists.

As they circle overhead, the final stage of the assault begins.

Four UH 60 Black Hawks, sombre fat hearses, rumble in. A seven-man squad fast-ropes out of the first and lands on the roof of the departure lounge; the other three touch down around the building, disgorging three more assault teams.

Suddenly the departure lounge door blows and the soldiers pour inside. Gunfire and screaming follows.

A terrorist, dashing out of the building on to open ground, is chased and brought down by the team’s alsation in a whirl of teeth and cheap denim.

Overhead the scout helicopters move aside as a huge C130 transport plane drops in and pulls up next to the lounge.

The plane’s rear ramp drops down and a special operations all-terrain vehicle hurtles out of the back, ready to pick up casualties.

There aren’t any – the mission is a success. Hostages flow out of the building and onto the ramp at the back for a hasty take-off, along with the sole surviving terrorist.

‘That was slick!’ says the U.S. Army pilot standing next to me, as he plants a cigarette in the corner of his mouth.

‘You’re in a video game right now. It was badass! It takes great coordination or you could crash – that happens a lot.

'You’re flying up there hunting around for targets and you don’t see the other heli, then bump!’

He should know. The crowd I’m standing with is peppered with U.S. marines, army rangers, green berets and navy seals from 50 different countries, along with arms dealers, a couple of kings and some Italian generals pilfering all the pens they can carry.

This is Sofex 2012, one of the biggest arms fairs in the world, which brings together special forces commanders from around the world to discuss terrorism and homeland security.

It’s where the men who usually hide in the shadows come to see and be seen.


The entourage of King Abdullah II sweeps into the conference hall, which today looks like a university lecture theatre filled with a bunch of torturers from old Steven Seagal movies.

Men with structurally unsound epaulettes buzz and fawn around him.

On the big screen is a picture of the King, and the head of a desert eagle, representing Saladin.

Jordan is peculiarly placed to hold this event, surrounded as it is by Iraq, Israel, Egypt and Syria, with Al-Qaeda groups in Yemen and Somalia only a stone’s throw away.

Add to this the recent instability of the Arab spring, the atrocities in Syria and the uprising in Bahrain and you have a room full of very busy, extremely paranoid men.

An army colonel sitting next to me is happy to inform me that Jordan has an economy like Greece, high unemployment and no natural resources.

He says Jordan needs nuclear power and holding these get-togethers seems like a good way of proving how responsible and stable they are.

Out in the lobby the delegates are munching mini croissants and drinking coffee.

There are officers from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, piratical looking chaps from Croat special forces, Singapore Rangers, Austrian special forces (who wear William Tell hats) and Ukrainians, whose spectacular head gear is a cross between an old schoolmaster’s mortar board and a bin lid.

Handshakes are more of a wrestling match than a social nicety.

They are joined by representatives from Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and Libya. Various Thai and South Korean commanders have a ball taking snaps of themselves with American special forces officers, who they treat like Justin Bieber.

The big American generals and commanders are the real rock stars here, and Brigadier General Sean Mulholland, Deputy Director of Ops for SOCOM, delivers the first speech.

SOCOM is the U.S. Special Operations Command, whose Seal Team Six last year killed Osama Bin Laden. SOCOM has its own $7 billion budget to spend on vehicles, kit, training, IT and weapons for its 60,000 soldiers.

At a time when the regular U.S. army, marines and air force budgets are shrinking, SOCOM’s is being increased.

As Mulholland grinds his way through his PowerPoint presentation, many of the officers natter or actually nod off.

The Chinese officials, however, listen intently, holding up their mobile phones to take pictures of every slide.

With the speeches over, I make my way to the buffet past three body-building Spetsnaz Russian commandos wearing identical black combat gear and jump boots, and bump into British defence attaché to Jordan, Colonel David Brown.

I ask him if this event is really more about networking, as no one except for the Chinese seemed to get anything out of the PowerPoint presentations.

‘The networking aspect cannot be ignored,’ he says, ‘If one’s honest, the purpose of these 20-minute slots is to say here I am, this is what I do, here are some talking points.

'It’s the conversations over the next three days that really get people together.’


This is day one of Sofex (Special Operations Forces Exhibition), where corporations and manufacturers from General Dynamics down to the lowliest logistics firm hawk their wares to the region’s most elite and well-funded military units.

On sale is everything a growing special forces unit might need, from inflatable boats to large Russian cargo planes.

The halls are divided into four areas: America; Russia (including Rosoboronexport, the Russian state controlled arms trader that recently fulfilled arms contracts with the Assad regime in Syria, and which has a nice line in attack helicopters and armoured vehicles); China; and the rest of the world.

The Chinese hall seems to sell products knocked off from the other three. Walls are lined with gun racks and every kind of military gizmo you can imagine, from virtual shooting ranges to hand-held missiles.

Some of the products are genuinely brilliant.

An American firm, Field Forensics, has created a small box that fits in the palm of your hand and works as a mini explosives laboratory, like a litmus test.

‘The guys using this might enter a building, find a load of chemicals and not know if they are drugs or explosives,’ says British security expert Kevin Cresswell.

‘With this they’ll know if it’s an explosive, and if so to be extra careful.’

Rather unnervingly, to demonstrate how it works he tips some TNT powder on my hand.

While we are talking, a Chinese man in a suit begins to methodically photograph everything on the stand. He opens bags and lays out the contents, snapping them from left to right.

‘Chinese intelligence,’ laughs Cresswell.

There are a small team of these photographers working the hall, methodically snapping new products either for Chinese arms companies or the government.

As the photographers continue, Cresswell points at the bomb suit behind him: ‘This suit is South African – it’s brilliant.

'They’ve got a copy of the same suit in the Chinese hall, made by a Beijing company for a third of the price.’

He shakes his head. ‘The only problem is it doesn’t offer anywhere near the same protection.’

The large British contingent is overseen by UK trade association ADS (Aerospace, Defence, Security).

It’s important for the Exchequer that things go well here: the UK arms industry employs 300,000 UK residents and turns over approximately £35 billion a year.

Gordon Lane is managing director of ADS. I ask him if this is part of a big push to gain a chunk of the $100-billion-a-year Middle East defence market, which is presently dominated by the U.S., France, and Russia.

‘Well yes, but there’s much more to it than just business.

'On a political level, if you think what has happened in the last 18 months to two years, being able to influence these countries is important.

'They have big connections to the UK and our military; we have had a connection to countries like Oman for years, and in these countries loyalties and relationships count for a lot.

'The fact that we have been here for a long time is not lost on them, the fact that there is a special envoy here is quite special and deliberate.’

Among the British brands represented is Magnum (a brand of footwear firm HiTec), which has designed a boot for maritime special forces units.

‘At the moment they are wearing normal diving boots, which don’t give them any support as they might also have to walk up to five kilometres on land,’ says Magnum’s Simon Marshall.

‘So what we’ve done is taken a normal outsole on one of our boots and altered the design for the maritime counter-terror boys so that it drains really quickly.

'They are on trial with 15 different marine-based special forces units around the world. Worldwide, we might sell 5,000 pairs of these a year.

‘People who come to the stand at this show are serious,’ he adds.

‘These guys have got their own budgets so don’t have to wait for four years for tender.

'If they like something they have a credit card and they just buy what they want. It’s a simple way to do business.’

Newcomers this year are the Palestinian Civil Police.

Manned by a couple of senior policemen, their stand is furnished with a potted tree, a large marble sculpture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and a framed picture of PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

‘We are not selling anything here,’ says Major Jafar.

‘It’s our first time at Sofex and it is our strategy to raise the name of Palestine, with positive propaganda of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian authority, to say that we are here and we are living and fighting to keep ourselves alive.

‘The tree is the olive tree. It’s a symbol of peace – the Palestinian people all the time are planting this tree within our land, and sometimes the Israelis incur and sometimes they destroy these trees so it’s a symbol that we are still here.

'We won’t move, if you destroy it we will plant another one.’

It’s quite a moment. His eyes start to fill up with tears.

‘Hold on,’ he says, wiping his eye, ‘I’ll get you a gift bag.’
Source - Daily Mail
2012 Jul 01 22:08
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