The international circuit of arms fairs, from Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) and Farnborough International in the UK, to DefExpo in India, IDEX in the United Arab Emirates, African Aero & Defence in South Africa and Latin America Aero & Defence in Brazil, is a key element of the arms trade.
The companies which attend are guaranteed potential customers in vast numbers, including military delegations and individual trade, government and armed forces representatives. They make contact, negotiate and sign contracts over the course of a number of arms fairs and interim meetings. There is almost no possibility of regulation or accountability.
In celebrating the sale of a tactical communications system to the Libyan Elite Brigade for its tanks, an arms company association's newsletter stated, “This success originated from discussions between Libyan Armed Forces personnel, General Dynamics UK and (the then) DESO [UKTI DSO's predecessor] at IDEX in Abu Dhabi. This initial lead was followed by a joint campaign by the company, DESO and the British Embassy in Tripoli. UKTI DSO sees this success as a first step towards further Industrial Partnerships with Libya.”
The government of the host country provides support for arms fairs, sometimes co-organising them with an events company. DSEi is one of the world’s largest arms fairs. It is owned by Clarion Events and organised in conjunction with the UK Government, in particular UKTI’s Defence & Security Organisation.