LIMA 2017: A bigger and better show

JUST before the KAI T-50B aircraft of the Republic of Korea Air Force aerobatics team Black Eagles came roaring overhead, flying in from behind the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC), the excitable team commentator caused some of those in Langkawi to burst out in laughter.

Practically shouting into the microphone, the commentator tried to get those attending the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (Lima) 2017 exhibition to turn to the rear.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, dragging out the second syllable of the first word such as a circus ringmaster would do. “Please turn your attention to the back side!”

Some photographers nearly missed the shot they were waiting for. Such was the mirth that overcame them.

The faux pas of the commentator aside, the Black Eagles’s routine, performed at least once a day for visitors, was a sight to behold. Theirs was one of the highlights of Lima, along with the SU-30SM aircraft of the Russian Knights, the famed aerobatics team of the Russian Aerospace Forces. So were the Tentera Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara aerobatics team Jupiter and, of course, the SU-30MKM, F/A-18D Hornet and Pilatus PC-7 aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

The 14th edition of the Lima series of shows, in fact, was a great success. With a growth in taken-up exhibition space of about 40 per cent compared with Lima 2015, the show was already considered a success.

But, with the participation of the aerobatics teams, alongside the ever-present crowd favourites of our own RMAF aircraft and the sleek lines of the French Air Force’s Rafale, everything seemed to buzz just that little bit more, at least where the aerospace segment was concerned.

In fact, the show had the best of starts after it was declared opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who, as defence minister in 1991, was in charge of the first Lima. The opening gambit following Najib’s speech featured the different aircraft of the RMAF fleet in quite a spectacular show that ended in explosions set off to simulate the destruction of targets attacked by an EC725 helicopter.

As the crowd walked off the tarmac and into the MIEC compound, two senior United States Air Force (USAF) officers were overheard talking to each other about how impressed they were with the opening gambit.

“That was an intense show,” one said to the other, to which the second officer said it was the best he had ever seen.

In truth, there have been Lima opening gambits that were better than the one on March 21, but to hear two lieutenant-colonels of the USAF, or any air force for that matter, saying such things would be enough to cause any Malaysian’s heart to swell with pride.

If the air show at the aerospace segment was awe-inspiring, the boat demonstrations at the maritime segment were no less exciting. The gracing ceremony, in fact, was a show of force by the different marine forces at Malaysia’s beck and call should any situation requiring their intervention come about.

At the ceremony, special forces from the Royal Malaysian Navy, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and police, with a little help from the Marine, Customs and Fisheries Departments, freed several “hostages” from the clutches of “kidnappers”. The agencies’ specialised boats and helicopters were used in the demonstration, showing off the power that Malaysia can bring to bear on those intending to do no good in our waters.

But, the demonstrations at either segments of Lima, exciting though they may be, are but mere sideshows. Yes, some like the Rafale, Saab Gripen and Muhibbah Engineering’s CJ66 rigid-hull inflatable boat are meant to be shown off to potential customers. But these are the exceptions.

What matters in any show such as Lima is what goes on inside the exhibition centre. The companies that attend such shows are there to sell their products or find potential partners. And, this is exactly what went on at MIEC and the exhibition centre outside Resorts World Langkawi, where the maritime segment took place. The hustle and bustle at the exhibitors’ booths on the first three days of Lima 2017, when only trade visitors were allowed in, was proof that the show was a success in terms of business.

So, overall, Lima 2017 proved a good show. In such uncertain economic times, such a success has an even bigger significance. It was a sign that Lima is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

Kudos then to the Defence and Transport Ministries, which were the main ministries involved in the staging of Lima. Bouquets, too, to the Armed Forces, which provides the manpower for so big an event.

And, congratulations to EN Projects (M) Sdn Bhd. As the new organisers of the region’s biggest show of the sort, the company did a splendid job. Yes, there were some hiccups, but they were few and far between, and minor enough to be of no consequence.

LESLIE ANDRES has more than two decades of experience, much of which has been spent writing about crime and the military. A die-hard Red Devil, he can usually be found wearing a Manchester United jersey when outside of work.

Source : NST

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