Egypt hosts 1st international arms expo, aims to boost image

Egypt opened its first international weapons fair on Monday, an event that organizers hope will project a message to the world that the country is secure and stable.

The three-day Egypt Defence Expo features the world's top arms companies and hundreds of military and civilian participants from dozens of countries.

The United States, Egypt's largest arms supplier, had over 40 companies present, alongside major firms from Britain, France and Germany, as well as Russia, China, India and Gulf monarchies.

"We are seeing a shift in paradigm away from some of the heavy machinery that characterize our assistance in past years toward a more nimble kind of approach to countering terrorism," U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Dorothy Shea said.

"We are trying to share our hard-won lessons from the battlefield and help our Egyptian colleagues take advantage of that and make sure that their acquisitions of equipment are appropriate and really benefit them to the maximum."

Organizers have not specified sales targets or expectations, but say agreements will be signed and announced at the fair, held in a massive expo center where marching bands and thousands of pieces of military equipment were on display.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who opened the event, led the 2013 military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president. Egypt is currently battling an Islamic State-led insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, and many of its vehicles and hardware on display have been battle tested there.

"Defense and armament are a pillar of peace," Defense Minister Gen. Mohammed Zaki said in opening remarks. "Peace must be protected by power that secures."

An upbeat video shown to participants at the opening ceremony highlighted the army's leading role in Egyptian society, blending scenes of Red Sea tourism and pharaonic temples with troops and equipment on the move. Zaki said the military only acquires power to protect and guarantee the country's safety and unity.