How Saudi Arabia’s SAMI is driving the localization of the Kingdom’s defense industry

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The CEO of Saudi Arabia Military Industries, Walid Abukhaled, inspects the progress of business at one of the SAMI sector of aviation and space systems in Jeddah. (SAMI photo)
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Saudi Arabia Military Industries CEO Walid Abukhaled tours a manufacturing hub of the SAMI subsidiary Aircraft Accessories and Components Co., accompanied by company CEO Mazen Johar. (SAMI photo)
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The corvette HMS Diriyah was the second corvette to be delivered to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces by Spain's Navantia company last year under a joint venture with SAMI. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 August 2023
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How Saudi Arabia’s SAMI is driving the localization of the Kingdom’s defense industry

  • Saudi Arabia Military Industries tasked with indigenization of half of Kingdom’s defense spending by 2030
  • SAMI aims to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on foreign imports by building domestically and hiring locally

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s defense industry is relatively new, dating back to the early 1970s. However, the country has made significant progress in recent years and is now considered a major player in the global market.

In the early years, the Kingdom’s defense sector was focused primarily on the assembly and repair of foreign-made weapons and equipment. More recently, the country has pursued self-reliance in military manufacturing.

This shift has been motivated by a number of factors, including the country’s vast oil wealth, its strategic location in the Middle East, and its desire to reduce its reliance on foreign imports.

One of the key drivers behind this burgeoning industry is the aerospace and defense company Saudi Arabian Military Industries, or SAMI — a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund established in May 2017.

SAMI’s goal is to localize 50 percent of the Kingdom’s defense spending by 2030. To achieve this, SAMI has established 12 joint ventures with the world’s biggest and best original equipment manufacturers.

These joint ventures have enabled SAMI to acquire the technology and expertise it needs to develop its own defense products.

“Through partnering with industry pioneers and experts, we’re making great strides towards achieving this goal,” SAMI told Arab News.




SAMI Chief Executive Officer Walid Abukhaled is briefed at one of the factories of the Intra Defense Technologies by company CEO Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Fawzan. (Photo: SAMI)

“Starting with creating opportunities for local talents and building products that are changing the game in the industry, SAMI is determined to support and empower those talents while fostering global partnerships simultaneously.

“In the five years since its establishment, SAMI has launched several innovative products such as Hazem, Mulhim, and Roaya. Those products have helped solidify Saudi Arabia’s impact and position in the defense industry globally.

“Consequently, we remain focused on developing and enhancing products by creating opportunities and building sustainable partnerships locally and internationally.”

Through its investment and partnership with Navantia, a Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, SAMI successfully completed Al-Sarawat, a project involving five new Avante 2200 corvettes for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces with capabilities to handle air, surface, or subsurface targets.




Saudi Arabia's HMS Al-Jubail, seen arriving at the King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah in this photo taken last year, is one of five corvettes produced in a joint venture signed in 2018 between SAMI and Spain's Navantia shipbuilding company. (Photo: Saudi Ministry of Defense)

HMS Al-Jubail and HMS Al-Diriyah are now equipped with Hazem, an integrated combat system that combines on-board weapons and sensors into one single system. It is the first combat management system to be developed by the Kingdom.

Mulhim, another battle management system developed by SAMI, is a battle management system for dismounted soldiers, stationary command centers, and mobile command centers, designed to enhance the combat capability of land formations.

Roaya, meanwhile, is a lightweight armored turret that can be armed with a 7.62 or 12.7 mm caliber machine gun or a 40 mm caliber grenade launcher.

Through partnerships with global leaders in the defense sector, SAMI has developed a range of armored vehicles, tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, fighter jets and drones, and has employed new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle technology.




SAMI has signed an agreement with UAE's EDGE group to produce the JAIS 4x4 armored personnel carrier in Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Edge Group)

Its success has not gone without notice. SAMI ranked among Defense News’ top 100 defense firms for the second year in a row, rising 19 places since last year to 79th. The company has set its sights on ranking among the top 25.

However, SAMI is not the only company contributing to the Saudi defense industry’s expansion. Others include Arabian Military Industries, Military Industries Corp. and SAMI Advanced Electronics Co., a subsidiary of the defense firm.

Much of the sector’s success is down to plentiful state investment. In 2022, Saudi Arabia ranked fifth in the world for military spending, after the US, China, Russia, and India, dedicating $75 billion to defense — accounting for 3.3 percent of global military spending.

The US led the ranking with $877 billion, or 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product. However, Saudi Arabia’s spending represents a higher share of its GDP, at 7.4 percent.

Investment in Saudi Arabia’s defense industry has multiple benefits for the country. Firstly, it helps to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on foreign imports. This is important for national security, as it reduces the country’s vulnerability to supply chain disruptions.

Secondly, the growth of the defense sector creates high-skill jobs and opportunities for Saudi citizens. Finally, it helps to develop the country’s technological and manufacturing capabilities, leading to economic diversification and the growth of other sectors.

The boost in defense spending was first unveiled in 2016 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sat with veteran TV journalist Turki Al-Dakhil for his first-ever television interview, which covered a wide range of topics regarding the Kingdom’s future.




In this picture taken in April 2016, then Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview with Al Arabiya's General Manager Turki Al-Dakhil, unveiled the Kingdom's strategy to boost defense spending and develop a home-grown defense industry. (Photo courtesy of Al Arabiya/File)

“Is it reasonable that in 2014, Saudi Arabia was the largest fourth country in the world, and the largest third country in 2015 in terms of military spending; while we don’t have industry inside Saudi Arabia?” the crown prince asked during the interview.

“We have a strong demand that we should meet inside Saudi Arabia, which is the demand on the military industries.”

It was during this same interview that the crown prince alluded to establishing a holding company for military industries, “which is 100 percent for the government.” Thus, the idea of SAMI was born.

SAMI’s rapid growth since then has led to a significant increase in employment, with the company now boasting more than 3,000 employees, 84 percent of whom are Saudis, with plans to add a further 1,500 staff in the next quarter. The firm had just 63 staff in 2018.

With a view to develop local talent and expertise in the defense industry, SAMI has established a number of training and development programs to help Saudis acquire the skills and knowledge they require.

Aerospace, drone regulation and the space industry are other growing sectors in the defense market that have experienced increased investment. The government has signed contracts with several players in these fields, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Safran Helicopter Engines, ST Engineering, Airbus, and L3 Harris.

Its most recent signing was with Turkish company Baykar Tech to localize the manufacture of the Bayraktar Akinci drone and its component systems.

“We believe building local and global partnerships is a key factor in achieving SAMI’s goals, and being part of the Baykar Tech agreement is a huge step forward in doing so,” SAMI told Arab News.




Major General Attiyah bin Saleh Al-Malki, chief of the General Directorate of Local Manufacturing at the Saudi Ministry of Defense, and his delegation, get a briefing at the engineering hub of the Intra Defense Technologies, a local company that designs, develops, manufactures high performance and innovative unmanned aerial systems. (Intra Defense Technologies photo)

“Those partnerships help us provide local talents with the best opportunities to grow and learn.”

Indeed, to drive ahead the localization of defense jobs, SAMI has taken the lead with the Kingdom’s new Academy of Defense Industries, which will significantly contribute to SAMI’s goal of becoming the largest supporter of national human resource.

“Furthermore, having SAMI’s CEO, Eng. Walid A. Abukhaled, as the chairman of the new Academy of Defense Industries is how we can ensure those opportunities are given to the right people, as the sole purpose of this academy is to find, prepare, and introduce young talents to the defense industry sector,” SAMI added.

 


Egypt’s president heads to holy Hajj sites from Madinah

El-Sisi was seen off by the governor of Madinah Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz.
Updated 4 sec ago
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Egypt’s president heads to holy Hajj sites from Madinah

  • El-Sisi arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi left Madinah for the holy Hajj sites on Friday as the first day of the annual pilgrimage got underway. 

El-Sisi arrived in the Kingdom on Thursday and prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. 

Wearing the ihram, El-Sisi was seen off by the governor of Madinah Prince Salman bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport.


Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs readies for Eid Al-Adha prayers

2,945 mosques and musallas have been prepared for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates. (SPA)
Updated 24 min 1 sec ago
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Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs readies for Eid Al-Adha prayers

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawa and Guidance has prepared 2,945 mosques and musallas for Eid Al-Adha prayers in Riyadh and affiliated governorates.

The ministry said its Riyadh branch is conducting inspection tours, as well as carrying out maintenance and cleaning work, and is providing all mosques in the region with necessities including incense to ensure that all mosques and musallas are ready to receive worshippers.


Minister tours media offices at holy Hajj sites

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary inspects media offices at the holy sites. (@SalmanAldosary)
Updated 33 min 38 sec ago
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Minister tours media offices at holy Hajj sites

  • Al-Dossary visited the media centre in Arafat, which has all necessary equipment to facilitate the work of local journalists and their international partners
  • He also toured the ministry’s office in Mina to inspect the facilities there

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Youssef Al-Dossary has inspected media offices at the holy sites where he was briefed on the techniques used by the Saudi Broadcasting Authority in covering the Hajj rituals in Arafat.

He also visited the Arafat Tower and was briefed on the authority’s mobile television studio.

Al-Dossary visited the media centre in Arafat, which has all necessary equipment to facilitate the work of local journalists and their international partners.

He also toured the ministry’s office in Mina to inspect the facilities there.

Al-Dossary underscored the significant role media professionals have played in promoting the Kingdom’s efforts to serve pilgrims. He also highlighted the keenness of the Saudi leadership to facilitate pilgrims in performing their Hajj rituals with ease.

The Saudi Broadcasting Authority has approximately 100 mobile cameras, and 100 correspondents and broadcasters.

It has also established an operation room to support logistics services and prepare over 700 news items in 12 languages.

The production teams consist of individuals specialized in news editing and field coverage. 


ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields. (Supplied)
Updated 14 June 2024
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ZADK Culinary Academy founder discusses its success 

  • Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives
  • The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province

ALKHOBAR: Since the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy officially opened its doors in 2019, it has cooked up some hearty dishes and continues to break records, do good, and train the region’s future culinary masters.
“ZADK won the Quality Award in Education and Training from the Ministry of Tourism, and has gained the trust of the Human Resources Development Fund, which supported the delivery of diploma courses for 100 male and female chefs and helped 240 others train for a qualifying certificate in the mini cooking program,” Rania Moualla, the academy’s founder, told Arab News.

Rania Moualla, the founder of the non-profit ZADK Culinary Academy. (Supplied)


In 2023, a culinary scholarship program was created in cooperation with the HRDF. Each student went straight into work after completing the program.
“The aim is to train Saudi nationals to be qualified chefs in accordance with international standards. This contributes to supporting the labor market and preserves the cultural heritage of Saudi cuisine, while helping achieve Vision 2030’s goals of supporting and empowering youth,” Moualla said.
So far, 371 chefs have graduated from ZADK, earning a diploma in the field of culinary arts or other related fields.
“A large number of them have joined the labor market, working in international hotels, restaurants and the corporate food sector,” Moualla said.
The academy was established in June 2018 and officially opened in December 2019 in the Eastern Province. Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Eastern Province, was one of the academy’s earliest, and fiercest, supporters.
“He was the first to believe in the idea and support it when he cut the ribbon and adopted the ZADK logo, which is a camel carrying food,” Moualla said.
ZADK’s aim is to “prepare young talent to contribute to Vision 2030, supporting advancement at the economic and social levels; preserving Saudi food culture and showcasing it to the world,” she added.
The academy, she continued, also “aspires to be a platform for social change regarding food waste, healthy eating, sustainability and culture.”
Aside from its culinary aims, the academy also runs several social-development initiatives. Its students have put in numerous hours volunteering and have even earned a Guinness World Record, creating a Saudi flag made of cupcakes to mark the 91st Saudi National Day.
The academy also sources its ingredients locally, to help promote local farmers and to ensure access to healthy food, in addition to applying a zero-waste principle.
The academy has earned International Organization for Standardization certification for quality management in work and food safety, and this year the academy qualified for accreditation from the National Center for Education and Training Evaluation.
“In terms of building competencies, following the example of our Swiss partner (the Culinary Arts Academy) — which is ranked among the seven best institutes in the world — we have invested in an advanced information system to enhance administrative efficiency and create a dynamic, stimulating educational community. We will begin working on it in the coming days,” Moualla said.
Classes have already started for the 10th batch of students, who will be joined in August by the 11th batch — which includes 56 students enrolled in a higher diploma through a scholarship from NEOM.
The international diploma for chefs includes practical training, workshops, an orientation program, and field visits. Another 24 chefs graduated from the Sultanate of Oman as part of the Hospitable program, organized by the Ministry of Labor, the Oman Tourism College, and the Omran Group in cooperation with the academy.
“The graduates are building a foundation for a bright tomorrow, transforming their passion into a profession and their dreams into reality. They also revive the history of our fathers and grandfathers, and our cultural heritage, through cooking,” Moualla concluded. 


Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules

Updated 14 June 2024
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Saudi authorities detain 18 suspects over violating Hajj rules

  • The suspects, a GCC national, an expatriate and 16 Saudi citizens, were detained on Thursday
  • Offenders will be detained for 15 days each and fined SR10,000 against each person transported

MINA: The Interior Ministry announced on Friday that the Hajj Security Forces apprehended 18 suspects at Makkah’s entrances for violating Hajj rules and regulations by transporting 91 persons without Hajj permits.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that the suspects, a GCC national, an expatriate and 16 Saudi citizens, were detained on Thursday.
The General Directorate of Passports’ seasonal administrative committees issued against the offenders 18 administrative decisions, including a prison sentence for a period of 15 days for each transporter, and a fine of SR10,000 ($2,666).
Fines are multiplied against transporters according to the total number of persons (without Hajj permits) transported.
Meanwhile, expatriate offenders will be deported after serving their punishments and will be prevented from entering the Kingdom for the periods specified by the pertinent laws.
The offenders will be named and shamed, and the authorities have also impounded the two vehicles used in transportation.
The Interior Ministry called on citizens and expatriates to abide by Hajj rules and regulations so that pilgrims could enjoy safety, security and comfort while performing their rituals.