On the day of the international recognition of the Republic of Croatia a third of…
Should the Adriatic Sea Defense and Aerospace Exhibition and Demonstration become a traditional manifestation in the future, its fifth edition, held in Split’s Spaladium Arena from 10th to 12th April, will go down as one of its most significant editions. Records were broken across all segments (exhibitors, delegations and participating countries), which proves that the exhibition has made a name for itself in a sea of similar events. ASDA’s reputation, significance and quality at times transcend the borders of its primary market, Central and Southeast Europe. All the records broken, along with its significance, have led to an important decision, confirmed at the opening: ASDA will go on! Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević and the President of TNT Productions Justin Webb signed a protocol on the continuation of the collaboration in the organization of ASDA. Details of the deal have not been released and are most likely yet to be worked out. But, when an exhibition has international political, economic and military significance and when 75 Croatian companies (such as Šestan-Busch, Brodosplit, HS Produkt or DOK-ING) and 110 world-renowned companies (including Lockheed Martin, Elbit, Rafael, MBDA and Bell) are interested in presenting their products at ASDA, it is evident that there is no reason why the exhibitions should not be held in 2021, and 2023, and 205, etc. This year, 33 foreign delegations visited the exhibition, which proves that ASDA has been recognized as an important meeting place for state and military representatives of ally and partner countries. The Government of the Republic of Croatia takes the credit for that, since it provided vital support in the organization of the exhibition through the Ministry of Defence.
If one were to go through the history of ASDA in numbers, one might conclude that already its first edition in 2011 was a success owing to the fact that the organizers had previously surveyed the needs on the market. The second edition in 2013 featured fewer foreign and domestic exhibitors because of the still on-going economic crisis in Croatia as well as the downward trend on the world weapons and military technology market. The 2015 edition saw in increase in the number of foreign exhibitors in comparison with 2011 and a further decrease in the number of domestic exhibitors. Two years ago, the fourth edition of ASDA drew the interest of more domestic exhibitors than ever before. The number of foreign exhibitors was smaller, but stable. The number of foreign delegations, on the other hand, was record-breaking. Numbers from ASDA 2019 have already been outlined above.
The three days of ASDA in Split at times resembled a minor summit of Ministers of Defence of Chiefs of General Staffs. Along with Minister Krstičević and the Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces General Mirko Šundov, ASDA was visited by six Ministers of Defence (from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro, the Philippines and Slovenia), two Deputy Ministers of Defence (from Albania and North Macedonia) and three Chiefs of the General Staff (from Hungary, Kosovo and Ukraine). Of course, they used the opportunity to hold a number of bilateral meetings. It would be near impossible to calculate the number of meetings held by the representatives of state authorities and economic, educational and research institutions. This created a lively atmosphere in Spaladium Arena all three days. One can only hope that the Croatian economy, the Croatian defence industry, the Croatian Armed Forces and all of Croatia will reap the benefits of it. We must not forget the great contribution made by the Split-Dalmatia County and the City of Split, who also used the opportunity to promote the host town an attractive business and tourist destination. The admission to ASDA was free (with prior notice, of course) for all citizens of Split and their guests, which is not a common practice at such manifestations.
The show-room with a record-breaking number of exhibiting companies and some interesting exhibits and presentations was an impressive sight. Although Spaladium Arena is large in size, every square inch was occupied by ASDA’s 185 exhibitors. This made us wonder how the space would be arranged if the number of participating companies continued to grow. However, those are little problems for TNT Productions, who are certainly already making plans for the next edition of ASDA. They can count on strong support from the Ministry of Defence, which is putting all of its efforts into the exhibition so as to ensure its success. The President of TNT Productions Justin Webb confirmed this at the opening, describing the support provided by the Croatian Government and the Ministry of Defence as vital, enthusiastic and continuing.
“Without a Strong Defence Industry, There Can Be No Strong Armed Forces”
In his address at the opening of ASDA 2019, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Damir Krstičević said: “This year’s edition of ASDA is the largest yet. The exhibition has affirmed itself as a first-rate event where one can get acquainted with new products and technologies. Pointing out the far-reaching benefits of the exhibition for Croatia, Mr Krstičević underlined the great degree of security that Croatia enjoyed as a NATO member. However, that did not mean that all securities bodies could relax. Rather, they ought to develop their abilities of responding to potential threats. “We are especially proud of the Croatian defence industry, which has made a name for itself on the demanding world market with its products, which are used by the Croatian Armed Forces. Without a strong defence industry, there can be no strong armed forces. We shall continue to support our defence industry to the best of our abilities,” Krstičević said. He concluded that the exhibition was a strong contribution to the development of the Croatian defence industry and the Croatian economy on the whole.
The envoy of the President of the Republic of Croatia Zrinko Petener underlined that ASDA had once more pushed the boundaries with a large number of exhibitors, delegations and visitors. The exhibition was an example of synergy in the “golden triangle” (state authorities, economic institutions and educational institutions), which lay at the core of the Homeland Security System, Petener emphasized.
ASDA and BSDA
It would be an exaggeration to think that ASDA would ever be on the same level as gigantic international exhibitions such as Eurosatory, IDEX, DSEI or any manifestation organized by the Russian Armed Forces or the United States Armed Forces, where a separate exhibition is set up for each branch or domain of the defence industry. However, ASDA fulfils its purpose and intended objectives. In fact, it is the largest exhibition in the wider geographical area. In May 2018, TNT Productions organized the Black Sea Defense and Aerospace (BSDA) exhibition in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, a country the population of which is five times that of Croatia. The defence market in the countries around the Black Sea is larger and more attractive at the moment than the market covered by ASDA. As many as 270 exhibitors from 25 countries participated in it. To be clear: the two exhibitions are not rivals. In fact, they complement each other well. After all, BSDA 2018 was visited by a high-level delegation from Croatia headed by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević. Exhibitors included Croatian companies such as Agencija Alan, Čateks, Galeb, Galko, HS Produkt, Kap-ko, Odjeća and Šestan-Busch.
Croatian Objectives at ASDA
- international promotion and affirmation of Croatian weapons and military technology manufacturers
- contribution to Croatia’s economic development by the Ministry of Defence and the Croatian Armed Forces
- introduction to newly-developed systems in the domains of homeland security and military technology
- development and strengthening of co-operation with partner and friendly countries
- promotion of military calling and education
ASDA 2011 – 2019
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Display of Croatian Armed Forces’ Weapons and Military Technology for Citizens of Split and Tourists
ASDA also featured a static display of the weapons and military technology used by the Croatian Armed Forces in Barracks “Sveto Letica – Barba”, near Spaladium Arena. The citizens of Split, especially secondary-school and university students, as well as a large number of tourists visiting Split ahead of the tourist season, could behold the best and most attractive technology in the Croatian Armed Forces’ inventory. These included the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter, the Patria AMV armoured personnel carrier, the M-84 main battle tank, the PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer, the BVP M-80 infantry fighting vehicle, the MRAP vehicle, the 122mm D-30 howitzer, the M65E infantry mobility vehicle, the RBS-15 missile, various mortars, unmanned aircraft and submersibles, diving equipment and a whole range of infantry weapons, including the HS 2000 pistol, the VHS-2 rifle, Croatian-made sniper rifles and many more. Croatian soldiers politely and expertly answered visitors’ questions about the systems that they use on a daily basis. The display also featured a tent where all those interested in becoming officers in the Croatian Armed Forces could hear information of the Croatian Defence Academy’s study programmes.
Mighty and Reputable
As fantastic as the show-room in ASDA was, the most attractive part of ASDA’s every edition is a live demonstration – an opportunity for the members of the Croatian Armed Forces to impress the guest of the exhibition shortly after the formal opening. In all honesty, it was unclear until the last minute whether the exercise would take place at all, for heavy rain had descended upon Split that morning, reaching its peak at noon, just when the exercise was set to begin. The scenario foresaw some of the most demanding tactical operations, such as descending onto a deck on a vessel from a helicopter. However, rain did not prevent the members of the Croatian Navy, Croatian Air Force and Special Forces Command from demonstrating their abilities to their colleagues from the Ministry of Defence and the Croatian Armed Forces, the representatives of elite defence industry corporations from Croatia and elsewhere as well as foreign delegations. In short, the members of the Croatian Armed Forces’ units demonstrated their joint efforts as well as their high-quality Croatian-made equipment. The Naval Infantry Company and the Omiš coastal patrol vessel prototype also made their debut at the exercise. As the Deputy Commander of the Croatian Navy Commodore Damri Dojkić explained, the Company had quickly achieved initial operational abilities required for conducting naval and airborne landings, the most complicated element of naval warfare.
“Nothing can come in the way of the Croatian Armed Forces. The soldiers have demonstrated their joint capabilities, their aptitude and their readiness to execute any given task. To sum up, they have proven themselves to be mighty and reputable,” underlined Minister Krstičević while congratulating the soldiers.
Croatian Defence Industry and New Technologies Panel
As stated above, ASDA ought to be more than just an exhibition; it ought to offer contents that will enhance the interaction between defence industry corporations, state authorities, defence and security authorities, scientific community and academia. For the first time, ASDA featured a panel entitled “Croatian Defence Industry and New Technology”. The panel, organized by the Ministry of Defence and daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija (Free Dalmatia), featured international defence industry leaders.
Together with them, the panel was attended by numerous state and military delegations, the representatives of the Ministry of Defence, the Croatian Armed Forces, ASDA’s co-organizer TNT Productions and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce as well as security experts and military analysts.
The Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces General Mirko Šundov and CROMIL’s expert associate Professor Marinko Ogorec reflected on new defence technologies’ potential to advance and increase security, but also on the threats and hazards they can cause.
The speakers at the panel were Subeije Kalo, Sales & Business Development Director at DOK-ING; Željko Pavlin, CEO of HS Produkt; Jonathan Hoyle, Vice President Europe & Americas at Lockheed Martin; Amihai Dekel, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Rafael; and Goran Basarac, Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Project Implementation at Šestan-Busch. The panellists shared their experiences from their production domains and their thoughts about their current projects as well as the direction in which their niches might develop in the future. Other topics of conversation were the possibility of integrating various technologies into a single system and the threats that those technologies pose. The two-hour panel featured interesting conversations that went beyond the scope of the Croatian defence industry. It was especially intriguing to see representatives of Croatian manufacturers put forward facts and examples that were as interesting as those of their peers from such defence industry giants as Lockheed Martin or Rafael. All parties demonstrated equal vigour in their work on futuristic projects. We believe that future editions of ASDA will feature more such panels and hopefully more participants. This was indirectly announced by the President of TNT Productions Justin Webb, who thanked the Ministry of Defence and Slobodna Dalmacija for organizing the panel, adding that such an event was necessary so that ASDA could continue to grow.
Minister Krstičević Meets Filipino and Georgian Colleagues
At Barracks “Sveto Letica – Barba”, Minsiter Krstičević met the Secretary of National Defense of the Philippines Delfino Lorenzano and the Minister of Defence of Georgia Levan Izoria. The Filipino and Georgian delegations were visiting Split on the occasion of the Adriatic Sea Defense and Aerospace Exhibition and Demostration (ASDA 2019).
During their meeting, Krstičević and Lorenzano affirmed their two countries’ good friendly relations and discussed the possibility of intensifying their bilateral defence co-operation. A further conversation topic was the current global and regional security challenges.
Minister Krstičević spoke to Secretary Lorenzano about the on-going projects at the Ministry of Defence and the Croatian Armed Forces as well as Croatia’s contribution to preserving global security as a member of NATO, the UN and the European Union.
On the occasion, the two ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Co-operation between the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Croatia.
Krstičević and his Georgian colleague Izoria also affirmed good friendly relations between their two countries and expressed a desire to further their co-operation. The ministers spoke about the security challenges in South-east Europe and South Caucasus. Moreover, they discussed continuing the two countries’ co-operation as Georgia developed its defence capabilities and prepared to join NATO.
Minister Krstičević praised the reforms in Georgia, conducted in line with the country’s Euroatlantic aspirations, and stated that Croatia was open to sharing its experience with Georgia as it continued its journey toward NATO and the EU.
Minister Izoria thanked Croatia for its contribution in the development of Georgia’s defence capabilities.
Ministers Krstičević and Izoria also met two Georgian officers attending a course in Croatia. Furthermore, they signed a Joint Statement symbolizing of the two countries’ dedication to strengthening their good bilateral defence relations.
During this year’s edition of ASDA, Filipino and Georgian delegations held meetings with several Croatian defence industry companies.
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Text by DOMAGOJ VLAHOVIĆ
Photo by MLADEN ČOBANOVIĆ, JOSIP KOPI
Translation by IVA GUGO