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DEFSEC Atlantic 2024



Who We Are


DEFSEC Atlantic presented by the Atlantic Canada Aerospace & Defence Association is one of the productions of the Nova Scotia International Air Show Association (NSIASA), formed as a Nova Scotian not-for-profit society in 1996. The other current production is Air Show Atlantic which takes place in different communities throughout the Maritime Provinces.

As a not-for-profit society, the NSIASA provides an unbiased approach to organizing the Exhibition. It is unaffiliated with any company and strives to produce an event which promotes the success of all Atlantic Canadian companies.

We are proudly going into our 18th year as DEFSEC Atlantic presented by the Atlantic Canada Aerospace & Defence Association, now the second largest event of its kind in Canada. We plan to keep producing an event that is flexible, open, relevant to industry and constantly evolving to best serve the needs of all its participants. Please join us!


The history of our trade show event is a humble one that began with the air show legacy formed in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, Canada. From the very beginnings of the air show in the late 1970s, it became apparent to the aerospace and defence industry in the region, that being involved with the Air Show could be beneficial. Initially, the displays put on by the dozen or so industry partners were integrated with the static aircraft and local community organization displays. With the competition for the Maritime Helicopter Program ramping up in the late 1990s primarily being focused on Shearwater, the number of industry exhibitors grew through the years to as many as 80 booths. Enough growth occurred that the industry partners were given their own hangar during the Air Show, affectionately known as “D” Hangar. The identity of the event evolved through the years as below:

  • “Ground Displays” during the Atlantic Air Display at Shearwater (1978 – 1980)
  • “Ground Displays” during the Shearwater International Air Show (1981 – 1995*)
        * There was no air show or exhibition in 1996 due to the transition from a military-organized event to a civilian-organized one.
  • “Trade Exhibition” during the Nova Scotia International Air Show (1997 – 1998**)
        ** The 1998 air show was cancelled due to the Swissair Flight 111 crash which occurred near Halifax just 5 days before the event.
    The hangars at Shearwater where the exhibition was scheduled to be held were instead used for the crash investigation that followed.
  • “Aerospace Exhibition” during the Nova Scotia International Air Show (1999 – 2003)

Later in the history of its presence at the air show, the Friday before the public flying displays was dedicated to a full-day of industry-focused networking opportunities. The public was then allowed to visit and see the exhibition displays on the weekend as part of their air show ticket. This allowed industry partners not only to work on building business relationships, but also gave many of them a chance to meet the public directly. This arrangement of co-location and sharing of dates between the exhibition and the air show continued right until the 2003 show. Shortly after this show, an announcement was made by the Department of National Defence that there would not be any air shows run out of the Shearwater air force base for the foreseeable future.

Needless to say, 2004 was a year of major re-invention for both the air show and the exhibition. The air show would eventually make a decision to re-locate to the Halifax International Airport (as it was known then). However, moving to this location meant the loss of easy public access to hangar space and/or a large building to co-locate the exhibition. A difficult decision was made to completely separate and re-brand the industry portion of the air show into its own self-sustaining event, although still under the auspices of the NSIASA.

The first evolution of the event saw it named the Atlantic Aerospace Defence & Security Exhibition (AADSE) and it took place at the Halifax Metro Centre in both 2004 and 2005. After just two years at that location, it quickly became evident that the interest in the exhibition had grown so much that the facility was no longer sufficient to host the event.

DEFSEC Atlantic Today

In 2006, a decision was made to move again – the main requirements being to find a location large enough and flexible enough to accommodate many more booths, a presentation area, a dining hall, meeting rooms, plus the ability to handle vehicle displays (indoor or outdoor) and ideally to even host water-based displays such as ships, diving displays and the like.

The event was then re-branded as the Canadian Defence Security & Aerospace Exhibition Atlantic, or DEFSEC Atlantic, for short. The Organizing Team eventually found an ideal location for the larger show – the Cunard Centre – which remained the exhibition’s home from 2006 until early in 2021.

In 2021, our event moved to the Halifax Convention Centre. This move was one of opportunity allowing us to expand our exhibition floorspace and also take advantage of the features of a new, world-class convention facility.

One of the ideas which also came with the changes to the event in 2006 was the formation of the Steering Group. The purpose of the group was to work in an advisory capacity to Show Management. Since this time, the group has come to include members from different levels and departments of government, industry association leadership and the NSIASA Board of Directors. The wide variety of perspectives, with the expert background from each area has proved invaluable in keeping the event moving in the right direction.

Every year, the organizers strive to improve upon the previous one and this has proved true in many respects, seeing the event gain more profile on both national and international stages.

We are excited about further evolution of the Show this year with a complete building take-over of the Halifax Convention Centre. Stay tuned for information on updates to our popular features along with new developments that the expansion in space has allowed us to do.

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