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

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

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.

 


Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation
Updated 29 February 2024
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Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

Saudi crown prince, French president discuss cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call from French President Emmanuel Macron, the Saudi Press Agency said early Thursday.

The pair discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation in all fields, in addition to issues of mutual interest.

They also exchanged views on several regional and international issues and the efforts made regarding them to achieve security and stability. 


Tunisian president receives Saudi health minister

Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel in Tunis on Wednesday. (SPA)
Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel in Tunis on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 28 February 2024
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Tunisian president receives Saudi health minister

Tunisian President Kais Saied meets with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel in Tunis on Wednesday. (SPA)
  • During the meeting, officials discussed cooperation relations between the Kingdom and Tunisia, and ways to support and develop them in the health sector

RIYADH: Tunisian President Kais Saied met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health Fahd bin Abdurrahman Al-Jalajel in Tunis on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported. 

During the meeting, they discussed cooperation relations between the Kingdom and Tunisia, and ways to support and develop them in the health sector. 

Al-Jalajel stressed the Kingdom’s keenness to enhance health cooperation between the two countries.

Saied highlighted and expressed appreciation for the pivotal role that the Kingdom plays in the Arab and Islamic world.


Saudi deputy minister meets Organization of African, Caribbean, & Pacific States chief

Saudi deputy minister meets Organization of African, Caribbean, & Pacific States chief
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi deputy minister meets Organization of African, Caribbean, & Pacific States chief

Saudi deputy minister meets Organization of African, Caribbean, & Pacific States chief

Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Elkhereiji on Wednesday received Secretary-General of the Organization of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States Georges Chikoti, in Riyadh.

During the meeting, they discussed issues of mutual concern and ways to further boost cooperation between the Kingdom and member countries of the OACPS.

In a separate meeting, Saudi Deputy Minister for Consular Affairs Ambassador Ali Al-Yousef held talks with the Mexican envoy to Saudi Arabia, Anibal Gomez Toledo, and reviewed relations between the two nations.
 


Aloula’s bazaar unites Jeddah for a charitable cause

Aloula’s bazaar unites Jeddah for a charitable cause
Updated 28 February 2024
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Aloula’s bazaar unites Jeddah for a charitable cause

Aloula’s bazaar unites Jeddah for a charitable cause
  • Visitors explored a range of offerings, including Ramadan item shops, a Saudi coffee corner, a dining area and shopping booths containing unique goods from different cultures

JEDDAH: The Women’s Charitable Society in Jeddah, known as Aloula, held its eighth annual charitable event on Feb. 27, celebrating tea and coffee cultures from around the world.

The event, titled “A Cup for a Good Cause,” brought Jeddah residents from a variety of countries together to take part in fundraising activities supporting underprivileged families.

The bazaar, a central feature of the event, featured six zones with more than 100 local participants and representatives from countries such as India, South Africa, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen and Egypt.

Visitors explored a range of offerings, including Ramadan item shops, a Saudi coffee corner, a dining area and shopping booths containing unique goods from different cultures.

The event also showcased a variety of performing arts from around the world. 

Visitors were treated to folklore shows from Indonesia, Colombia, Kazakhstan and India, as well as performances of Saudi Ardah, Egyptian folklore and Saudi folklore. Acclaimed artist Abdallah Rashad held a musical performance, adding to the cultural tapestry of the event.

Dania Al-Maeena, Aloula CEO, expressed her gratitude for the support of Jeddah residents, as well as local and international brands.

In comments to Arab News, she highlighted the importance of community collaboration in achieving Aloula’s mission of supporting underprivileged families in Jeddah. 

Founded in 1964, the nonprofit, which supports thousands of people, focuses on the holistic development of children’s intellectual and physical skills to help them realize their full potential.

Ahmed Al-Safahi, director of the community development department at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, said he was “proud and delighted by Aloula’s efforts and dedication for this charity event.”

During the opening day of the event, sponsors including Haji Hussein Ali Reza, Arabian Tires, Aqua Power, Best Events, 3 Arts Entertainment and Success Makers were honored for their contributions.


US singer China Moses wows Riyadh audience with jazz fusion

US singer China Moses wows Riyadh audience with jazz fusion
Updated 28 February 2024
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US singer China Moses wows Riyadh audience with jazz fusion

US singer China Moses wows Riyadh audience with jazz fusion
  • Moses’ music tackles many subjects including life, love, social encounters, pain, loneliness, and even modern societal issues such as mass shootings

RIYADH: US singer China Moses wowed the audience when she took to the stage in Riyadh.

The musician’s performance was the third of cultural and creative hub Fenaa Alawwal’s Safar Nights concert series.

She was joined by band members Jerome Cornelis on guitar, bassist and musical director Lawrence Insula, Tom Lartigue on keyboards, and Ebow “Lox” Mensah on drums.

After the show Moses told Arab News: “The crowd was lovely and so warm and welcoming. You just never know how the music is going to connect, and I really felt at the end that it was a choir — we were a family at the end.

“That makes me very happy. I’m overjoyed actually right now,” she added.

The 46-year-old songstress captivated the Riyadh crowd with her vocals, original compositions, and heartfelt moments.

Raised in France, she sang several of her most popular tracks including “Etre la-bas” and had fans grooving to improvised tunes such as one she described as having a barbecue tempo.

Introducing “Disconnected,” she told the audience: “This song is about getting together just like we are and just feeling the vibe, just feeling alright. So, if your feet are moving, and if your head is grooving, then that means we’re doing our job.

“We want to take a moment to celebrate our roots. With this song we’re going to celebrate Tina Turner and Al Green,” she said, before performing a cover of “Let’s Stay Together.” 

The 46-year-old songstress captivated the Riyadh crowd with her vocals, original compositions, and heartfelt moments in Riyadh on Tuesday. (Supplied)

She also paid tribute to other Black musicians with renditions of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You,” written by Prince, and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

Moses’ music tackles many subjects including life, love, social encounters, pain, loneliness, and even modern societal issues such as mass shootings.

Quoting the late American singer Nina Simone, she said: “It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times.” She then sang “Sirens,” a song that she noted helped to purge the feelings of disbelief and pain after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, and the Colorado Springs’ Club Q bar shootings in 2022.

A storyteller by nature, she uses her voice to platform both tribulations and celebrations of the African American experience.

The daughter of American jazz singer and actress Dee Dee Bridgewater, Moses blends several genres into her repertoire including blues, rhythm and blues, soul, and funk.

“There are so many different kinds of jazz, and so many different layers. Some of the stuff I did tonight was not planned. It’s a music of freedom. It is the music of my Black American heritage but, more importantly, a music that was a gift from such a horrible period in humanity,” Moses added. 

The 46-year-old songstress captivated the Riyadh crowd with her vocals, original compositions, and heartfelt moments in Riyadh on Tuesday. (Supplied)

She pointed out that she always aimed to send her audiences home with joy and hope in their hearts.

Jazz emerged in New Orleans, influenced by spirituals and the slave experience of the African Americans in the US, the sounds of which were also rooted in ragtime and blues incorporating improvisation and syncopated rhythms. It led to various subgenres such as bebop, cool jazz, and fusion.

Moses said: “Who separated the jazz and the blues? Because that’s the same people who made both, and all those people would go to church. And if you don’t explain it that way, you don’t understand Black American society.

“You can’t understand why Black American church is so important. You can’t understand why jazz can sound so warm and round and rugged and raw, like the blues. And you don’t understand why the blue sounds so simple.”

Saudi Arabia has recently hosted top artists including R and B and soul singer Alicia Keys, rapper Lauryn Hill in AlUla during Saudi Founding Day celebrations, and queen of funk Chaka Khan (a close friend of Moses’ mother) who performed at Riyadh’s first International Jazz Festival earlier this month.

“I’ve played in a lot of places in the world I never thought I would play because I do Black American music. I think that that’s a testament to the power and universality of it.

“Alicia Keys is a universal person. We have the same message, we just express it in different ways because we’re different people,” Moses added.

Starting her career at the age of 16, Moses said she had never imagined performing around the world, hosting two radio shows, and becoming a co-founder and artistic director to both the Tahiti Soul Jazz festival, and Paris Soul Fest.

On her advice to the rising talents on the Saudi music scene, Moses said: “Be yourself, and don’t be afraid to explain. The music is enough, of course. But don’t be afraid to talk to the audience.

“Whether you choose to express yourself through spoken word, sung word, or no words with your voice, you’re communicating. For me, the most important thing is to do the best with what you have. There’s beauty in all of us,” she added.