So your company has booked flights and a hotel in some odd place called Gauteng, where you’re going to attend a defence exhibition you’re not all that familiar with. You’ve been to the big shows like EUROSATORY and SOFEX, but what is this Africa Aerospace and Defence thing? Look no further.Here’s a quick breakdown on what you need to know about the exhibition:

The first three days are everything

AAD is a trade exhibition and air show rolled in one. And while the flyovers and festivities of the weekend are interesting to your inner propellerhead, if you’re attending AAD for business, the first two days are the most important. Although a trade day technically happens on Friday too, it winds down fairly quickly as exhibitors rush to secure their small arms, radar systems and other breakables from the greasy paws of the descending weekend hordes.

The first and second days – much like at other exhibitions – are where the deals are announced and the new systems unveiled. And pay attention to the big companies’ announcements during the day (see below). Although the exhibition is the largest on the continent, it could fit into a single exhibition hall at EUROSATORY, so don’t panic about not seeing everything.

You’ll have your own agenda and meetings scheduled, but aside from the big, international players at AAD you’d do well to look at some of the smaller stands and see what local defence industry producers have on offer. You might just be surprised. Desert Wolf, for example, is worth a stop in.

Watch the big companies

There are 300 companies exhibiting and 40 on a waiting list. There will be over 70 foreign military delegations from 50 countries looking at the systems on offer with their own particular defence needs in mind. Which companies are the ones standing out at AAD this year? Here are our three to watch:


It might be an international company, but nestled within Saab is a South African contingent that offers systems with surprisingly-high sophistication. Thermal camouflage netting and a fascinating C2 simulation software suite are two systems to ask about.

Paramount Group

Paramount Group have had a busy 2014 already. Acquiring several companies in South Africa and partnering with aerospace giant Boeing, Paramount Group will likely have a large variety of systems on show and a generally-impressive stand layout. Expect more AHRLAC-related news. If you don’t know what the AHRLAC is, look no further.


Denel is South Africa’ largest defence company, housing a vast array of subcontractors and technological developments that have been produced and sold to defence forces worldwide. As a parastatal the company has enjoyed a long and rich history of developing defence equipment ranging from the Rooivalk attack helicopter to trained service dogs. Their stand will be large, and their booth staff have generally always been very knowledgeable and helpful in answering questions. Particularly on that odd 20mm sniper rifle.

You probably need a car

Yes, there is a train and bus route leading to the show. But unlike Paris, where the shuttles and trains will take you directly to the expo hall, AAD is at an Air Force base a good distance out from the station. You’ll sit in thirty degree heat in a slow-moving bus navigating a lot of traffic, because everyone else drove there in their rental cars. Do the same if you want to arrive fresh.

Follow the news

Specifically African Defence Review. We shall be publishing daily podcasts and wrap ups of the major announcements and interesting systems displayed during the day. Interviews with those in the know from defence industry participants and, possibly, the odd man or woman in uniform.

Podcasts can be found on our website directly or, during AAD, from our iTunes library directly.

Feature image by Louise Docker

Feature image by Louise Docker