World Defense Show 2024

World Defense Show 2024

Report and photos by Łukasz Lipka

May 16, 2024

The second edition of the World Defense Show was held from 4 – 8 February 2024 at the airport located approximately 70km (about 43.5 mi) from central Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With an impressive turnout of over 770 exhibitors and 106,000 visitors hailing from 76 countries, this edition of WDS demonstrated remarkable growth and solidified its position as a prominent event in the defense industry. Remarkably, this achievement comes just two years after the inaugural edition in 2022, highlighting the rapid ascent and immense potential of this relatively new event on the global stage.

The show’s venue which was built specifically to hold fair trade and shows like this one, comprises three large exhibition halls, outdoor exhibit spaces, a land demonstration track, a 2,700-meter runway and space for static aircraft displays, providing an ideal setting for showcasing cutting-edge defense technologies and fostering international collaboration in the defense industry.

Saudi Hawks celebrated their 25th anniversary during World Defense Show 2024.

Kicking off the aerial showcase exclusively for VIPs, official delegations, government entities, exhibitors, and media representatives, the inaugural day saw the impressive display of the Saudi Hawks, the host nation’s aerobatic team, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. The flying programme was extended in the next days of the World Defense Show, featuring approximately three hours of aerial displays on each day of the show. The visitors witnessed an impressive array of flying demonstrations, including another thrilling performance by the Royal Saudi Air Force, showcasing the formidable Eurofighter Typhoon. In addition to Saudi Hawks, there were two other teams: the Turkish Stars and the Chinese August 1st (Ba Yi) display team.

Notably, the A-10C Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team delivered a memorable performance, especially bearing in mind the announcement that the 2024 season will be the final one for the team. However, despite its impressive display, the A-10C Thunderbolt II operated from a separate airfield, contrasting with most other acts that took off from the WDS airport. On the second day of the show, which saw the most flying activities, the US Navy provided a short display consisting of a single flypast of P-8A Poseidon with its weapons bay open. Further flypasts were provided by the French Rafale C and a pair of USAF F-16C Fighting Falcons, all flying from different air bases in the Middle East, where they were deployed at that time. Lastly, the Pakistani Air Force presented their JF-17 Thunder aircraft, accentuated by striking red smoke.

Most of the aircraft participating in the flying displays were parked next to the static display area, which provided a fantastic opportunity to photograph them from different perspectives.

In addition to the captivating aerial displays, the World Defense Show also featured live land displays, showcasing a diverse array of military vehicles. Attendees had the opportunity to witness these vehicles in action, demonstrating their agility, firepower, and versatility. Among the impressive lineup were vehicles like the IAG Light Patrol Vehicle, Humvee Saber (LTV) and Wahash 8×8.

The World Defense Show provided a platform for the Armed Forces of Saudi Arabia to showcase an impressive array of aircraft from their inventory in the static park, including the AH-64D Apache from the Royal Saudi Land Forces, MH-60R Seahawk from the Royal Saudi Navy and E-3D Sentry from Royal Saudi Air Force, among others. However, the standout part of the static park were the four fighters (Typhoon, F-15SA, Tornado, and F-15C) adorned in the special green livery received last year for the annual National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

RSAF Typhoon, F-15SA, Tornado, and F-15C wearing the special livery, were among the highlights of the static display.

A significant addition to the static exhibition was presented by the US Armed Forces in the form of two C-130J aircraft alongside F-15E and A-10C among other aircraft. The Royal Air Force proudly brought to the show their Atlas C.1 (A400M) transport aircraft, while Armée de l’Air et de l’Espace (French Air and Space Force) presented their multirole fighter Rafale.

Helicopters also featured prominently in the static displays, among them were the Qatar Emiri Air Force presenting the NH-90 and the Royal Navy showcasing Wildcat.

In addition to their participation in the flying display, the Pakistan Air Force showcased another JF-17 Thunder on the ground, offering attendees a closer look at this impressive aircraft and its integrated weaponry. Moreover, transport aircraft such as KC-390 from Brazilian Embraer and Il-76 from Russia were also presented at the show.

Drones such as Turkish Baykar Bayraktar Akıncı and Chinese AVIC Wing Loong-10B were also presented at the WDS. The latter one is set to soon enter service with the Royal Saudi Air Force. Many more drones and other platforms from all over the world were showcased in the exhibition halls, where also panels and conferences took place covering a variety of topics such as Future Defense Leadership, Innovation Exploitation, Technology Integration for Defense Transformation, International Women in Defense, and Future Talent.

On the inaugural day of the show, alongside an impressive lineup of military aircraft, several airliners graced the static display area, adding a commercial aviation flair to the event. Among them were Flyadeal Airbus A320 as well as two aircraft from Saudia: Airbus A321 and Boeing 787. However, their presence was temporary, as all these airliners took to the skies on the second day of the show, departing before the commencement of the official flying display.

Over the next two years, Saudi Hawks will transition to the new aircraft, the locally assembled, Hawk Mk.165 which was unveiled during the show.

During the World Defense Show, a significant moment unfolded as His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud unveiled a Hawk Mk.165 adorned in the new color scheme for the Saudi Hawks aerobatic team. Currently operating the Hawk Mk.65, the Saudi Hawks will transition to the new aircraft over the next two years. Notably, these new aircraft are assembled locally in Saudi Arabia, underscoring the nation’s commitment to enhancing its aerospace capabilities and fostering domestic manufacturing expertise.

In summary, the World Defense Show exceeded all expectations by attracting influential decision-makers from the defense and security sectors worldwide. This premier international event successfully addressed the needs of stakeholders at the local, regional, and global levels, offering a comprehensive view of the defense industry landscape. During the course of the event, an impressive total of 73 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreements were signed, with 17 of them specifically focused on offset agreements. This substantial number of agreements proves the show’s success as a central platform for fostering global collaboration and innovation in the defense sector.

Łukasz Lipka on EmailŁukasz Lipka on FlickrŁukasz Lipka on Instagram
Łukasz Lipka
Photojournalist at Aviation Photography Digest
Łukasz is an aviation enthusiast and photographer from Poland, currently living in England. He grew up near Radom Airport where the biggest Polish air show takes place, so he has been interested in aviation since the early stages of his life. He especially enjoys military aircraft but he also appreciates and is fascinated by everything that flies. At the beginning he was only watching planes. Since 2012, Łukasz has taken up aviation photography, which now is a very important part of his life. He is constantly looking to improve his skills as a photographer and photojournalist. Every year he visits military bases and air shows in the whole Europe and beyond. Łukasz uses Canon equipment.

Łukasz can be reached at: [email protected]
Send this to a friend
All rights reserved © Aviation Photography Digest, 2024
Subscribe to our FREE newsletter and get notified when new articles are published.
  • Original material featuring air forces from around the world
  • High quality photographs tell the visual story
  • Unique insight into military aviation
  • Featured videos
  • New content published regularly