Accessibility links

Dubai Air Show Opens With Emphasis on Military 

<!-- IMAGE -->

The biennial Dubai Air Show is underway, with the global economy dampening expectations among those selling civilian planes. But regional tensions have led to some optimism among manufacturers of military aircraft.

Nearly 900 companies from about 50 countries have gathered in Dubai for the five-day show. Heavily-decorated military types from Western countries mingled with Arab sheikhs, while aircraft roared overhead.

Orders for commercial airplanes are expected to be lower this year, as airlines cope with an expected $11 billion loss this year.

America's Boeing executives in Dubai put on a brave face, saying that fulfilling back orders will keep their production lines busy.

Europe's Airbus is faring better, and expects to end the show with carriers from Dubai and Ethiopia placing some much-needed orders. But increasingly this year, eyes seem focused on the show's military component.

A U.S. Air Force spokesman described the maneuvers of pilots aboard its F-15e Strike Eagle.

"When flying low in combat, speed is life. Now, from the left, Captain Smith and Captain Cox return to show center at 300 feet and nearly the speed of sound," he said. "This capability allows the Strike Eagle to fly undetected, deep into enemy territory and deliver its ordinance."

The exhibition, put on every two years in the United Arab Emirates, attracts regional buyers who have immediate and potential problems.

"The problem is that the political situation in the region is still tense," said Louis Hobeika, a professor at Lebanon's Notre Dame University. "Of course, you have the Palestinian-Israeli situation, plus the Saudi-Yemen problem, plus all kinds of bilateral issues, wars or bilateral conflicts, let us say, which could really lead into war in the future."

The military aspect of the show has been steadily growing, and this year is expected to make up about 40 percent of the orders.

In sharp contrast to the military aspects of the show, some exhibitors appeared to revel in the pure joy of flight. The Italian display included tight formations of jets with contrails in the red, white and green of the nation's flag, the smoke forming hearts, crosses, spirals and more.

"You know, Italy is famous for many things, but one of them is the wine," he said. "Try to see if you can recognize now a glass of good Italian wine.Look at them!"

As a military threat, the sight of enemy fighters taking the shape of a wine glass may not be much, but in showcasing style and finesse, the Italians delivered.