EDITOR’S NOTES: Postcard from Aqaba: U.S. Distributors, Embassy Shine
A Bedouin band serenades SOFEX attendees.
Stew Magnuson photograph
AQABA, Jordan — The primary impression most have had of Aqaba comes from the basic movie Lawrence of Arabia, set throughout World Battle I and the Arab Revolt.
In a shock assault on the Turkish-held fort on the northern finish of the Purple Sea, T.E. Lawrence, Auda Abu Tayi and their males dramatically trip their horses and camels in a lightning strike over a desert plain.
However anybody who takes motion pictures for historic reality is, after all, silly. In actuality, the marketing campaign took a number of days, rugged mountains are to the east of the town and a pointy hill leads right down to the fort, which remains to be standing and a well-liked cease for vacationers.
Right this moment, Aqaba — now in Jordan — is best often called a vacationer vacation spot with its resorts, seashores and reefs common with scuba divers.
Additionally it is the brand new location for SOFEX, the one commerce present within the Center East dedicated to particular ops. After years of it being held in Amman, the biennial present went on a four-year hiatus resulting from first its venue being broken in a storm, then COVID-19.
Throughout that point, the organizers within the Jordanian authorities determined to alter the setting from the capital metropolis Amman to Aqaba, a four-hour drive to the south.
Whether or not or not that was a good suggestion after such a protracted layoff stays to be seen. Most commerce business exhibits have returned with greater crowds than ever, however those that had attended SOFEX previously instructed Nationwide Protection that there appeared to be remarkably fewer attendees and exhibitors — probably because of the considerably distant locale. There have been many empty stalls and obvious no-shows within the exhibition corridor.
However right here’s a tip for anybody contemplating attending SOFEX 2024: make the most of the space between Amman and Aqaba and cease to see Petra. One of many Seven Wonders of the World, the traditional metropolis is carved within the aspect of sandstone mountains and is finest often called a backdrop for Indiana Jones and the Final Campaign.
After that, spend a couple of days in Wadi Rum, a protected desert area that doubled because the planet Tatooine in Star Wars, and the backdrop for Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian. Camp out below the Milky Method and benefit from the Bedouin hospitality. That will all sound like hype from a vacationer brochure, however take it from somebody who has traveled to all corners of the globe, the Jordanians are a number of the friendliest and most hospitable folks round.
Day one of many convention was held in a five-star resort close to the seaside and is named the Center East Particular Operations Commanders Convention. A lot of the commanders who spoke had been preaching to the choir concerning the significance and uniqueness of particular operations forces. Their shows didn’t have a whole lot of substance, which was too dangerous. Many of those officers are down within the trenches finishing up counterterrorism missions day-after-day and doubtless had extra attention-grabbing issues to say.
One exception was Pakistan’s Maj. Gen. Adil Rehmani, who stated that his forces as soon as loved technological superiority over the terrorist teams he faces, however that’s not the case. They’re catching up shortly with night time imaginative and prescient goggles and surveillance drones.
The three-day exhibition, which passed off on the King Hussein Worldwide Airport, was reportedly “purpose-built” for SOFEX, however that turned out simply to be the registration and safety space.
In entrance of the corridor entrance stood a bit of apparatus that will find yourself being a footnote in historical past, the Saildrone Explorer, an unmanned floor vessel the Navy’s fifth Fleet had utilized in a sequence of experiments within the Persian Gulf. The weathered vessel constructed by Saildrone of Alameda, California, was plucked from the ocean and introduced as a static show — and never too quickly. The Iranian navy earlier within the 12 months reportedly made an try to grab one in every of them, however the U.S. Navy arrived in time to thwart their dastardly plans.
The drone had one other 5 minutes of fame on day one of many present when King Abdullah II, the founding father of the convention and the supreme commander of the Jordanian Armed Forces, made the rounds and stopped for a significantly very long time to obtain a briefing from a fifth Fleet officer concerning the drone. The king — a giant believer in renewable power — was principally inquisitive about how the USV used photo voltaic panels and the ocean currents to generate energy, in response to an insider aware of the dialog.
The USA had the biggest contingent of exhibitors, with Lockheed Martin, L3Harris, Teledyne FLIR, and AM Basic being the best-known distributors.
U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Henry Wooster got here with a contingent of U.S. officers who had been there to provide the nuts and bolts of the best way to do enterprise with the dominion. Together with privately consulting with the small companies, they gave informative talks on the Affiliation of the US Army’s speaker’s nook. Hats off to them. No different nation on the present noticed that type of dedication to supporting its personal sector.
Jordan isn’t an oil-rich Gulf state and doesn’t have these nations’ sources to spend on weapons. It’s nonetheless a stalwart U.S. ally within the area, and hopefully at SOFEX 2024, these empty stalls shall be full of extra U.S. distributors.