RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to create hundreds more jobs in the defense sector as Saudi Arabian Military Industries' new ‘Land System Center of Excellence’ becomes operational in the next two years, the company’s CEO told Arab News.
Speaking exclusively on the sidelines of the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Walid Abukhaled said the latest project by the company is designed to boost the defense industry in Saudi Arabia.
“What we announced is the design phase of the facilities. We have got board approval, we have got the support, and we are moving forward with our plan,” he said.
The SAMI CEO said the latest center will focus on developing land system vehicles including four-by-fours, six-by-sixes, and eight-by-eights.
The center is part of the drive to make SAMI one of the top 25 defense companies globally by 2030 – an ambition that is increasingly likely thanks to the support from the leadership of the Kingdom, according to Abukhaled.
Last year, the firm joined forces with global firm Lockheed Martin to begin work on a Composites Manufacturing Center of Excellence to boost Saudi Arabia’s aerospace manufacturing capabilities.
During the interview, he expressed his gratitude to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and said that his Vision 2030 is the driving factor behind SAMI’s growth.
“Only after four years of operationalizing SAMI’s operation, we managed to be one of the top 100 defense companies in the world. We are number 96. Company number 100 is Embraer which was established in 1969. Our ultimate objective is to be a top 25 defense company by 2030,” said Abukhaled.
He added: “We have a clear roadmap. The target is 2030, absolutely. And the challenge, can we beat it? Can we beat the date and make it happen before 2030?“
According to Abukhaled, the government, the military and all the armed forces are working together to help SAMI achieve this target.
He further noted that SAMI has hired some of the best local talents, along with international experts who have first-hand knowledge about the defense sector, and this has played a crucial role in determining the success of the company in a very short period of time.
The SAMI CEO added that the firm is eyeing 50 percent of localization in defense spending by 2030.
He further pointed out that space is going to play a crucial role in enhancing the communication system in the defense sector.
“Space will play a key role in communication. And under our advanced electronic divisions, we have communication systems, and that communication can happen through space, or through a normal waveform, ground to ground. So, we are working on how to communicate with satellites, and that will be under our advanced electronics division,” he said.
Abukhaled revealed that SAMI is also working on new technologies like artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicle technology to further grow in the defense sector.
“We have a chief technology officer. There is a function called emerging technologies, where the main objective and purpose is to look at the trends in technology and look 20 and 30 years ahead. So, absolutely there is a focus on advanced technology,” said Abukhaled.
He added: “Autonomy is not an option any more. It is coming. That is the future. Airplane will fly without pilots. Ships will sail without a captain, and for land vehicles, you will not need drivers. The machines have proven that they can. They are more reliable and they do not make mistakes. Of course, you need to put the right option in them to make it reliable.”