The Colombian Ministry of National Defense held EXPODEFENSA 2017, December 4th–6th, 2017. The fair brought together 269 participants from 76 official delegations of 30 partner nations. In all, the exhibit spanned 15,000 square meters. The sixth edition of the event saw a 20 percent increase in visitors.
“The changed political and military context with the newly found peace in Colombia led our defense and security sectors to develop technology with an international focus,” Colombian Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas said at the opening ceremony. “[We want to] join the peacekeeping missions of organizations like the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”
The expo is held every other year. Its goal is to respond to the needs of Latin America and the Caribbean on defense and security issues related to communications and information systems; subassembly of land, air, and naval vehicles; weapons, and munitions; and systems to detect, locate, and eliminate explosives.
International exhibitors made up 72 percent of EXPODEFENSA 2017—28 percent were Colombian. Military personnel and civilians attended the expo that counted 12,500 visitors. In this 2017 edition, exhibitors from the Americas included Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the United States, among others. Spain, Belgium, and the United Kingdom participated for the first time.
An opportunity to join forces
“We need to step up our work with Colombia. We have common needs and technologies we must bring together to develop our defense products better,” said to Diálogo Brazilian Navy Admiral Ademir Sobrinho, director of the Brazilian Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We are very similar people. We have great technology and great rocket and munitions development, and simulators too.”
France was the 2017 guest nation. The French Armed Forces’ Land Army showcased its Mountain Infantry Squad’s capacities through the 27th Battalion of Alpine Hunters. “We came here to share our capacities as a modern, well-trained, well-equipped, and multipurpose force,” French Army Major Laure Barbeau, director of the French delegation, told Diálogo.
Future outlook and opportunities
With 29 exhibitors, the United States once again gathered the largest level of participation at EXPODEFENSA. “Our presence increased 61 percent compared to the 2015 expo,” said to Diálogo Tom Kallman, president and CEO of Kallman Worldwide, Inc., the privately held defense contractor that coordinated U.S. participation. “The challenge for our corporation is to find ways for Colombia to produce equipment at lower costs.”
“We believe this is a great opportunity to deepen both countries’ knowledge. To learn about each other’s operational and industrial needs to initiate cooperative projects,” said to Diálogo Spanish Army Colonel Juan Nardiz, representative of the Office of Foreign Support of Spain’s Ministry of Defense. “We came here with 10 companies with whom we hope to create international cooperation projects.”
With the growth of Colombia’s military-industrial sector, the nation seeks to contribute to security abroad and join international cooperation to face global security challenges. To that end, the Ministry of Defense leads the Colombian Social and Corporate Defense and Welfare Group, made up of 18 companies.
Among those, CODALTEC presented what was only a project two years ago: “This is our SINDER [ground surveillance] radar systems designed to detect people, vehicles, and drones 24/7. They can function in all kinds of environments—rain, fog, snow, and hail, among others,” Colombian Air Force Colonel Darío Fernando Rey, assistant manager of CODALTEC, told Diálogo. “TADER, an air traffic control and fire control radar, is another completed project.”
“We’re interested in learning about Colombia’s military industrial capacities,” General Javier Ramírez Guillen, commander of the Peruvian Air Force, said. “We’re especially interested in aircraft maintenance. It’s a capacity we share. We want to reach an agreement with the Colombian Air Force to merge these capacities.”
The Colombian Aerospace Industry Corporation (CIAC, in Spanish) presented the Atlante II, an unmanned aerial vehicle with a 200-kilometer autonomous range and a 150-kilogram cargo capacity. Among the 69 Colombian exhibitors, the Colombian Navy presented the Naval Tactical Network project DATALIK and the Barracuda fire control system. The Department of Arms and Electronics at Bolívar Naval Base developed both systems. The Colombian Air Force exhibited the HORUS system that links all military and civilian radars.
With a 63-year history, state-owned defense manufacturer Industria Militar de Colombia, Indumil, prepares its venture into the manufacture of special vehicles for the Colombian Army. The company plans to produce 60 all-terrain trucks in the next two years. “Our Cordova 9 millimeter pistol, a successful national product, generated a lot of interest,” said Colombian Army General (ret) Alejandro Navas, Indumil’s director.
Technology transfer, chemical and biological weapons threats in aviation, cyber espionage, peacekeeping operations, and ground defense systems were among the event’s academic programs. The lectures serve as the basis to develop the region’s defense and security sectors.
“EXPODEFENSA was a great platform for the United Kingdom’s delegation, as it gave the opportunity to secure and create new business and interact with [various] companies,” Adam Thomas, the representative for the UK’s Defence and Security Organisation, said. “The United Kingdom’s 25 delegations managed to interact with 15 nations.”
After three days of exhibits, roundtables, contacts, drafting of agreements, and progress in cooperation agreements among partner nations, Colombia feels it accomplished its mission. “We are highly satisfied with the results of this sixth edition. EXPODEFENSA 2017 proved to be a mature expo that has become a regional hub for the sector in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean,” said Colombian Army General (ret) José Javier Pérez Mejía, deputy minister of defense for the Colombian Social and Corporate Defense and Welfare Group.