The sixth edition of the Bahrain International Air Show opened at Sakhir Air Base, under the patronage of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, with the participation of 100 military and civil aircraft, and 86 companies and institutions working in the fields of aviation, defense systems, space and logistics.
The exhibition had been scheduled for 2020, but was postponed with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The last time it was held was in 2018.
Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who also serves as Bahrain’s prime minister, inaugurated the three-day event on Wednesday in the presence of a number of senior officials from Bahrain and the participating countries.
Prince Salman also toured the exhibition and visited the pavilions of the participating countries, where he was briefed on the latest technologies developed in the military and civil aircraft industry from various countries throughout the world.
For the first time, at least four Israeli companies exhibited their products in the first-ever Israel pavilion, though no actual Israeli aircraft, combat or civilian, were on display.
The largest display in the area designated for Israeli companies is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, joined by SpacePharma and Excalibur Systems from Israel.
During the opening of the IAI exhibit, the company’s chairman of the board, Amir Peretz, noted that he was the minister of the economy when Israel and Bahrain normalized relations. “When I was the minster of economy, I signed an agreement between Israel and Bahrain, under the umbrella of the Abraham Accords, with the minster of trade in Bahrain. For me this is a very good opportunity to see what the diplomatic agreement can do to the relationship” between Bahrainis and Israelis.
“I think that we are here at a very important time; it’s just the beginning, we have to see this opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the people in Bahrain” he added.
Eitan Na’eh, Israel’s Ambassador to Bahrain told The Media Line: “I'm honored and proud to be part of the opening of the Israeli pavilion in this important air show. The Abraham Accords opened the door for various cooperations, including in the civilian and defense aviation sectors.”
“We are thrilled to witness active participation of Israeli companies and to see their partnership agreements take this relationship between the two countries to new heights,” he added.
In addition to the Israeli companies, there are several companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, China, India, France and the United Kingdom.
Companies from at least two Gulf countries withdrew their participation in the air show over the participation of Israeli companies, according to reports. Oman's Salam Air company withdrew from the event and the Kuwait Finance House removed its logo from the list of sponsors.
The exhibition featured air shows from the British Red Arrows team, the Saudi Hawks team, and the Emirates Knights, in addition to air shows with Bahraini, Emirati and Pakistani military aircraft, and participation by the US Air Force.
The participants, whether from the large military and security delegations that were present at the exhibition, or citizens and residents of Bahrain, toured more than 50 civilian and military planes that allowed visitors to roam inside and take pictures.
Deals are expected to be announced between Gulf Air and other airlines, in addition to several agreements between various countries in the field of aviation, during the event.
Arun Venkataraman, assistant secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, told reporters at the event that there are 10 small and medium-sized American companies working in the aviation and defense sector participating in the exhibition that are looking forward to forming partnerships with the various parties present.
“The free-trade agreement between Bahrain and America has raised trade exchange from the $700 million previously to $2.3 billion at present, and we look forward to more partnerships,” he said,
Regarding developments of the US Free Trade Zone in Bahrain, he said: “The project will be completed in 2025, and Bahrain has already begun to implement its plans.”
Mohammed Thamer Al Kaabi, Bahrain's Minister of Transport, said in an open meeting with journalists a day before the air show that “Bahrain is working to expand the cargo village at the airport to raise its capacity from 600,000 tons to 1.4 million tons in 2026” in order to attract new companies in the air cargo sector in Bahrain.