“One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.” This quote by the French author Victor Hugo, best describes the International Defence Exhibition and Seminar (IDEAS) held this November.
IDEAS has had a bad run in the past couple of years, the devastating floods in 2010 caused the event to be cancelled at the last moment and the event was not even held in 2011. However this year, the event has come of age and has provided the perfect platform for launching Pakistani defence products in the international arena.
As a child I grew up watching the Pakistan Day parade and wondered why it didn’t take place in my city. It was to satisfy the curiosity of the inner child and re-live that nostalgia that I visited IDEAS 2012 held in Karachi.
There were a number of international exhibitors but I was more interested in the wide variety of Pakistani products present. The JF-17 Thunders, the Karakorams, the Mashaks and the Al-Zarrar and Al-Khalid tanks are undoubtedly the pinnacle of Pakistan’s indigenous defence production. But I would like to highlight some of the lesser known gems that the local manufacturers had to offer — from the bizarrely simple to those straight out of a sci-fi movie.
A concert that wasn’t
At a huge stall belonging to the Global Industrial and Defence Solutions (GIDS), I spied what looked like a set of acoustic microphones and some very high tech speakers. It turned out that the microphones were part of what is called the Gunshot Detection System or GDS and it does exactly what its name suggests. The GDS can detect and convey the location of gunfire by using shock-waves created by the bullet. What’s even cooler is that an automatic machine gun can be configured with the system to lock onto the shooter’s position to return fire almost immediately! The “speakers” turned out to be explosion proof lights that could stand the shock-wave of a blast.
KITT — Meets HIT (Heavy Industries Taxila)
This took me back to the days when Knight Rider was king of the airwaves. This is a White Toyota Altis with dark tinted glasses. Nothing exciting about that, you say?” Well, the car is bullet proof and explosion proof! Capable of withstanding a barrage of gun-fire, grenade attacks and even IED blasts. Not even flat tyres can stop this car! HIT have improvised on their knowledge of armour plating gained from years of producing APCs and tanks. The package comes with reinforced chassis and shocks and a supercharger to compensate for the extra weight of the armour. Quite handy for Karachi driving too, I would imagine.
Drones in Droves
What’s a defence expo without drones? Pakistani manufacturers had their own drones on display. Once again, GIDS led the way with its local Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Shahpar, which has a wingspan of 6.6 metres. With its 250 kilometre range, 50 kilogramme payload capacity and day and night operational capability, it lives up to its grandiose title. Integrated Dynamics (ID) was another promising manufacturer of UAVs that offered a range of military and civilian drones. Interestingly, ID has exported some of its products to Australia, Italy and even the US!
Quad-rotors and Hexa-Rotors — VR — Goggles
National Radio and Telecommunication Corporation (NRTC) were showing off a product that reminded me of the surveillance quad-rotor that Rancho from 3 Idiots helped build. Well, the NRTC had a high-tech version of that at IDEAS, called the Air Scout. This unmanned aerial system (UAS) has search and rescue abilities, urban surveillance and counter-terrorism potential. The built-in cameras can provide live video feeds and can be customised for thermal imaging, night vision, extended flight or weather proofing. Imagine the advantages of having one hovering between buildings and reporting on the proceedings at a rally, procession, protest or dharna! The system comes with a cool set of goggles that provide the pilot with point of view video for controlling the craft.
A simulation can be something as basic and physical as “net practice” in cricket or as advanced and sci-fi as the simulated “worlds” onboard the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek. The Military Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (MVRDE) have built cutting edge tank simulators complete with life-like pods. These pods are mounted on hydraulic systems that let the driver experience a simulated battlefield. MVRDE has also created a simulated shooting range. The “Shooter Profile System” is capable of analysing all the parameters that a shooter has to master, including breath control and pre-fire anxiety. To top off things, the G3 rifle’s recoil mode can be switched on to give you a real “jhatka”! They also had showcased their ATGM (Anti Tank Guided Missile) simulator which was very popular with some young engineers attending the exhibition.
The Golden Gun
One of the reasons I love IDEAS is that you can find all kinds of weapons there, from the gun that can be fired around corners to the gold-plated sub-machine gun. Yes you heard that right, a gun that can be fired around corners! The POF EYE, created by the Pakistan Ordnance Factories, allows the shooter to see, and fire, a gun around corners. Future versions will include night vision, infra-red vision and would also be able to transmit the video feed back to base in real time!
All Blown Up
Last, but not least; I came across a couple of stalls that reminded me of the inflatable jumping castles. These are actually inflatable decoys which mimic aircraft and military equipment. Before I left, I could not help but stop at the stall serving piping hot curries with scrumptious looking parathas. I was invited to try the food and after my appetite was satisfied, I enquired what it was all about. It turns out that the food I had just polished off was more than a year old! PANA Force makes preserved food without using harmful chemicals. The food comes with a special self-fuelled burner for heating when required, remains fresh for over an year and tastes delicious — this last bit, I speak with experience!
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, December 16th, 2012.