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

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.


King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

Updated 37 sec ago

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

  • Seminar discussed maritime trade between two countries, role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts

LONDON: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, organized a scientific seminar on cultural and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China from June 19-23 in Beijing, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The seminar was held as part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which featured the Kingdom as the guest of honor. It discussed a variety of topics, including maritime trade between the two countries and its cultural and economic implications, the role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts and preserving Arab heritage, and Arab heritage in China.
Numerous agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment have strengthened the two countries' strategic partnership. Both countries participated in initiatives aimed at boosting global trade, including joint projects to develop ports, railways, and industrial zones.
Cultural exchanges and academic programs have helped to improve understanding between the two peoples, and Saudi Vision 2030 has broadened the scope of economic cooperation with China in areas such as technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Updated 32 min 11 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

  • Participation of more than 340 students expected 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad, with participation from more than 340 students and 400 university professors and chemistry teachers from 90 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The prestigious event, which will run from July 21-30 at King Saud University, is organized by the Ministry of Education, and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, and boasts exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

The event is a global chemistry competition in which talented high-school students from around the world compete in the subject. It aims to inspire interest in the subject through the solving of complex and creative chemistry problems; promote international communication in the field; and foster friendships among young science enthusiasts from diverse nationalities.

It will mark the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the olympiad was testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting talent, science, and innovation, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzaa added that Mawhiba had prepared for the event through several parallel tracks, including strengthening coordination with partners to ensure an exceptional hosting experience; preparing talented students for strong competition; and aiming to achieve new milestones for the nation.

Members of the International Steering Committee for the International Chemistry Olympiad praised the Kingdom’s comprehensive preparations during a recent visit to Riyadh.

Their visit included meeting the Saudi minister of education, who launched the awareness campaign for the event in January.

The Kingdom has collected 14 silver and 25 bronze medals at the event in the past, and the Saudi team secured four prestigious awards at the 2023 International Chemistry Olympiad in Switzerland.

MAWANI and REVIVA establish recycling and industrial waste complex at Jeddah Islamic Port

MAWANI signed on Sunday a SR30million contract with Reviva to establish a complex for recycling marine and industrial waste.
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago

MAWANI and REVIVA establish recycling and industrial waste complex at Jeddah Islamic Port

  • Contract is part of the efforts exerted by MAWANI to promote environmental sustainability and maintain the safety of the marine environment

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority, MAWANI, signed on Sunday a SR30million ($8 million) contract with the Global Environmental Management Services Ltd., or Reviva, to establish a complex for recycling marine and industrial waste at Jeddah Islamic Port.

The president of MAWANI, Omar bin Talal Hariri, and the CEO of of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co., Ziad bin Mohammed Al-Shiha, signed the contract in the presence of a number of other officials.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the contract is part of the efforts exerted by MAWANI to promote environmental sustainability, maintain the safety of the marine environment, and build a sustainable maritime sector that enhances the Kingdom’s position as a global logistics center and a hub connecting three continents.

The implementation of the contract comes in line with the National Transport and Logistics Strategy and the Green Port Initiative. The new complex will contribute to enhancing the transformation of waste into valuable resources while building a thriving circular economy in the Kingdom.

According to SPA, these objectives can be met by providing comprehensive waste management and recycling solutions, industrial maintenance and transportation services, and recycling by-products. As such, waste volume is significantly reduced while waste management and environmental conservation improves.

The strategic cooperation scales up the outcomes of efforts exerted to achieve waste management goals in the Kingdom in line with Saudi Vision 2030. It also increases the private sector’s contribution to supporting economic development and listing Jeddah Islamic Port under the Top 10 ports in the world.

MAWANI is keen to introduce pioneering initiatives directly related to the Saudi Green Initiative which aims to reduce emissions, address climate change, and enhance the partnership between the public and private sectors to expand the related scope of work and thus, improve the commercial attractiveness of the Kingdom’s ports in the eyes of the whole world.

National Cybersecurity Authority joins UN Security Council talks

Updated 23 June 2024

National Cybersecurity Authority joins UN Security Council talks

  • The Kingdom emphasized the importance of striving to create a safe and reliable cyberspace

RIYADH: The Saudi National Cybersecurity Authority participated in a high-level open discussion session held by the UN Security Council titled “Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Addressing Evolving Threats in Cyberspace.”

Senior officials and permanent representatives of member states of the UN, as well as the secretary-general of the organisation, Antonio Guterres, participated in the session.

Leading the Saudi delegation was the Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Wasil. The delegation included representatives from the cybersecurity authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The session addressed developing a common understanding among states on enhancing the role of the Security Council in addressing cyberthreats, in light of the Security Council’s primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, taking into account the potential threat to international peace and security posed by malicious activities in cyberspace.

The Kingdom emphasized the importance of striving to create a safe and reliable cyberspace that enables growth and prosperity, especially since enhancing cybersecurity is essential to protect the vital interests of countries as well as national security.

Jeddah Season 2024 launching June 27

Jeddah Season 2024 will launch next week under the slogan “Once Again.” (@JEDCalendar)
Updated 23 June 2024

Jeddah Season 2024 launching June 27

  • Jeddah Season 2024 will offer a variety of entertainment, tourism and cultural activities

JEDDAH: Jeddah Season 2024 will launch next week under the slogan “Once Again,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The opening ceremony will be held on June 27 at 9:30 p.m. in the Art Promenade area located within the Jeddah Waterfront.

According to the SPA, Jeddah Season 2024 will offer a variety of entertainment, tourism and cultural activities. Events will be held in several designated areas, including the City Walk, which offers a diverse mix of interactive experiences, motor and skill games, Arabic plays, concerts, restaurants, cafes and shops.

The season will feature Warner Bros. Discovery: Celebrate Every Story, held for the first time in the Kingdom, offering a mix of games and entertainment shows. The family-friendly attraction features renowned stories and characters under one roof.

The 2024 Jeddah Season will also host numerous events at Imagine Monet and Prince Majid Park, as well as international concerts.

The event map, set to be unveiled, includes activities such as live artistic and cultural performances, and entertainment, sports and tourism activities.