RIYADH: Work on the first of five Avante 2200 corvettes being built for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) has begun with an official keel-laying ceremony in the Spanish port of Cadiz.
The high-tech surveillance and maritime protection vessels are being built as part of a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, and are due to be delivered by 2023, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Senior officials from Saudi Arabia and RSNF personnel headed by Rear Adm. Faleh Abdulrahman Alfaleh, deputy commander of the Western Fleet, attended the keel-laying ceremony. SAMI CEO Andreas Schwer, Navantia boss Susana de Sarria and SAMI-Navantia CEO Antonio Rodriguez-Barberan also took part.
The keel-laying is a landmark in the construction of the vessels, one of the key components in the agreement between SAMI and Navantia.
Schwer said: “Today’s event marks a milestone in our collaboration with Navantia as we endeavor to further strengthen the Royal Saudi Naval Forces’ outstanding maritime capabilities through the manufacture of these five vessels.
“This project represents proof of concept for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vision for the localization of 50 percent of military equipment spending by 2030.”
He added: “By working together, SAMI and Navantia will boost the local content through the creation of thousands of highly skilled jobs in Saudi Arabia, accelerate the transfer of technology, and contribute to the Kingdom’s goals of building the indigenous military and defense industries.”
In addition to the construction of the vessels, the Avante 2200 project will include support for five years from the delivery of the first vessel, with an option for an additional five years.
SAMI-Navantia will provide combat system integration and installation as part of a landmark contract worth over €900 million ($985 million) agreed at the Defense and Security Equipment International 2019 exhibition at London’s ExCeL convention center in September.
System engineering and architecture, hardware design, software development, and the delivery of logistical support and training programs are included in the joint venture.
The five-year project will create jobs for 6,000 people, including 1,100 direct employees, more than 1,800 employees of Navantia’s auxiliary industries, and more than 3,000 indirect employees generated by other suppliers.
The fourth and fifth corvettes will be completed within Saudi Arabia, contributing to the development of the Kingdom’s defense system through the transfer of technology and creation of new career opportunities. Under the agreement, localization of the Kingdom’s tech capabilities is expected to grow by up to 60 percent, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.