As Saudi Arabia is achieving unprecedented progress in many fields, it was necessary to pay attention to the military power of the kingdom; therefore several military maneuvers took place on a recent basis.
One of the largest joint military exercises between the Egyptian and Saudi armies was recently launched, with the participation of ground forces from the two countries in Saudi territory, under the name “Tabuk 5”.
The Egyptian Armed Forces’ announcement of the launch of the “Tabuk 5” exercises coincided with the announcement of the implementation of a transient naval exercise within the scope of the Egyptian Southern Fleet in the Red Sea, between an Egyptian destroyer and two American destroyers.
(Tabuk 5) Training
The “Tabuk 5” training is organized for the fifth time between the two countries, in an exchange between the Egyptian and Saudi territories. In a statement on his Facebook page, the Egyptian military spokesman said that Tabuk 5 is one of the largest joint exercises between the two countries, in terms of the size of the forces participating in the training, or the variety of training activities.
In “Tabuk 5”, infantry and armored forces, including main battle tanks, from both countries, elements of the special forces from the Thunderbolt and parachutes, as well as support elements of various specialized weapons, are participating.
The latest training, according to the Egyptian military spokesman, confirms the depth of military cooperation relations, and the growing fruitful partnership between the Egyptian and Saudi armed forces.
Protecting Arab National Security
Commenting on the launch of one of the largest “Egyptian-Saudi” joint exercises, Major General Dr. Muhammad al-Ghubari, former director of the National Defense College in Egypt, said in statements to Sky News that the Egyptian and Saudi armies are among the strongest armies in the region, and they have multiple experiences and the joint exercises of their forces.
Major General Al-Ghubari adds that the challenges facing the region are manifold, and military cooperation is one of the means that sends messages to those who plan to target Arab national security, regarding the presence of trained and strong forces capable of coordination and cooperation for the interests of their peoples and the interests of the Arab world.
The Egyptian military expert explains that this type of military training between the powerful armies and each other contributes to getting to know the new weapons they have, the tactics and modern combat skills that they gained from experience, as well as the message of the strength of the relations between the two countries, as military cooperation is considered the most prestigious stage of cooperation between countries and each other.
A few days ago, the Egyptian Armed Forces announced the implementation of 41 joint military exercises, whether inside or outside Egypt, during 2021, with many friendly and brotherly countries.
Crossing training in the Red Sea
The Egyptian military spokesman stated, in a statement released recently, that the maritime training in transit within the scope of the Egyptian Southern Fleet in the Red Sea included several combat activities, including maritime security measures in the Red Sea, confronting atypical maritime threats, and an exercise to protect a ship carrying important cargo.
He explained that this fleeting training comes as an affirmation of the strategic partnership and the extended bilateral relations between the Egyptian Armed Forces and their American counterpart.
Regarding the transit training between the Egyptian and American navies in the Red Sea, the Egyptian military expert, Major General Mohamed El-Gohari, says that this cooperation is taking place between the two countries within the framework of the presence of American naval forces in the Red Sea, and not extensive joint training.
In an interview with “Sky News Arabia”, El-Gohary added that the significance of the current training lies in the distinguished relations between the two countries, the confidence in the distinguished combat capabilities of each, and the possibility of carrying out joint actions in the framework of maintaining maritime security, especially in the Red Sea region, which is subject to numerous threats.
El-Gohary explains that there is a common challenge in the maritime operational environment in which the training took place, which is to maintain the security of maritime traffic in the Red Sea, which passes through the Suez Canal, and is a major source of income for Egypt, as it is the artery of global trade movement.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 … An Unprecedented Development for the Saudi Army
Since the twenty-fifth of April 2016, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been experiencing a wide-ranging economic and social movement, after the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz launched The Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
“The Kingdom’s Vision 2030” is the largest economic and social plan aimed at restructuring the Saudi national economy and developing society through many basic plans and pillars.
The localization of military industries is a major focus within these plans and pillars, as the Kingdom has realized that the positive impact of this localization is not limited to merely reducing military spending.
The Kingdom occupies an advanced position in military spending, as it occupies third place in the world in 2015 and fourth in 2016 according to the estimates of the International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm.
Taking into account that less than (2 percent) of this spending is produced locally, the local military industries sector is limited to (7) companies and two research centers only.
There are many goals that the settlement process achieves, including:
Achieving the requirements of Saudi national security by providing all the needs of the Saudi armed forces at any time without relying on the outside, which represents a deterrent to any attempt to prejudice the security and stability of the Kingdom or threaten its interests.
Maximizing the utilization of local raw materials used in these industries, and the resulting economic returns.
Facing one of the most prominent societal problems, which is the problem of providing more job opportunities for Saudi youth, as these industries would provide thousands of job opportunities and the related development of human capacity building programs capable of dealing with this specialized industrial sector.
Contributing to the Kingdom’s GDP by about 14 billion riyals with the possibility of exporting to countries around the world and the consequent realization of additional resources for the general budget.
Hence, the vision aimed to localize more than (50 percent) of military spending by 2030, starting to work on starting to develop some less complex industries such as spare parts, armored vehicles, and ammunition.
Then continue this path to the settlement of most of them, then move to the circle of more complex industries such as the military aviation industry.
All this was done by pumping more direct investments into this sector, as well as by building strategic partnerships with leading companies, to transfer knowledge and technology and localize experiences in the fields of manufacturing, maintenance, research, and development, while working to establish specialized and integrated industrial complexes that include the main activities in this sector.
To achieve this, it required building national institutions that will bear the burden of this responsibility and work to ensure their success, which has already been achieved through structural work on two main pillars:-
The first: the establishment of the General Authority for Military Industries… as an important tributary in the localization of industry
The General Authority for Military Industries was established by a decision of the Saudi Council of Ministers issued in August 2017, to work to strengthen the national military industrialization capabilities, seeking to localize this sector, and making it an important tributary to the national economy by providing job opportunities for Saudi youth, and advancing development through Enhancing non-oil revenues.
The authority is the legislator for the military industries sector in the Kingdom, and is responsible for its development and monitoring of its performance, by achieving 5 main national priorities; are represented in the following: raising military readiness, enhancing strategic independence, enhancing joint operation between all security and military authorities, developing a sustainable local military industries sector, and raising transparency and spending efficiency.
For the authority to achieve its vital system of priorities, the decision to establish it specified its competencies in the following: proposing strategies, rules, and regulations related to the military industries sector and its complementary industries, and managing military procurement operations, bearing in mind that priority is given to Saudi companies according to specific controls set by the authority.
The authority also manages and develops the economic balance program about the military industries sector and its complementary industries, and negotiates with foreign companies to transfer technology and increase local content, in addition to managing all research and development operations in the sector, including the allocation of research and development budgets and technology transfer.
The authority also coordinates with the relevant authorities to harmonize the outputs of technical education and training with the needs of the sector, work to attract technical competencies to it, set incentives for its development, support local manufacturers, and support the export of local military products.
To ensure that the authority performs its national role, the decision to establish it organized its management mechanism through the formation of a board of directors headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, with the membership of the Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Trade and Investment, and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Military Industries Company.
With the launch of the authority’s work based on three main pillars: industry, military procurement, and research and technology, the authority organized some workshops in the presence and participation of local investors in the military industries sector to discuss ways to develop and enhance exports through long-term planning for military procurement.
Since September 8, 2019, the authority has started receiving requests for issuing licenses to engage in military industries activities for companies operating in the sector. The licenses granted were concentrated in three types: military manufacturing licenses, licenses to provide military services, and licenses to supply military products or services.
The number of registered users through the industrial licensing portal reached 180 users, with a total number of applications for licenses for manufacturing and services, which reached 95.
Indeed, in its press conference organized by the authority in November (2019) on this occasion, the authority handed over the first set of permits to some companies, submitted by them: the Saudi Military Industries Company, the Advanced Electronics Company, the Saudi Company for Advanced Technologies, and the Sondos Advanced Company for Industry.
Fruits of localizing the military industry
The second: the establishment of the Saudi Military Industries Company… a focal point in the localization process
The Saudi Company for Military Industries, known by its acronym “SAMI”, was established as a national entity on May 17, 2017, concerned with developing and supporting the military industries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and enhancing its self-sufficiency, in line with the Kingdom’s 2030 vision aimed at localizing 50 percent of the kingdom’s military spending.
The vision is also working to make this company among the top 25 specialized companies in this sector in the world, which was announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying, “Our goal is to localize more than 50 percent of military spending by 2030. The company will constitute a turning point in the growth of the Saudi military industries sector, as it will become a sustainable platform for providing military products and services.”
It is worth noting in this regard that the establishment of this company does not mean that the Kingdom had no previous interest in the military industries. Rather, the pages of history record that the Kingdom, since its establishment, has attached great importance to these industries, as it is mentioned that the founding King, King Abdulaziz Al Saud in1949 ordered the establishment of military factories, and the first production line began in 1953.
In 1985, the military factories were transferred to the General Organization for Military Industries, and in 2013 it was transferred to the General Organization for Military Industries. It includes 16 factories’ production lines that produce different types of light and medium ammunition, missiles, control and sensor devices, military vehicles, tankers, armored vehicles, drones, and various military equipment.
But with the launch of Vision 2030 and the need for more advanced and expanding efforts in light of the increasing diversity of challenges, which necessitated the importance of having a government military company that operates according to the latest administrative and technical systems, to become the mainstay of the Saudi military industry.
Therefore, the Saudi Military Industries Company was inaugurated, which defined its scope of work in four vital areas: Air systems, including maintenance and repair of fixed-wing aircraft, and the manufacture and maintenance of unmanned aircraft.
The Saudi Company for Military Industries also works in the field of land systems, which includes the manufacture, maintenance, and repair of military vehicles and the field of weapons, ammunition, and missiles as well as the field of defense electronics, including radars, sensors, communications systems, and electronic warfare.
The company’s goals were set in pursuit of maximizing its direct contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP by more than SAR 14 billion, with about SAR 6 billion allocated for investment in research and development operations, in addition to its endeavor to provide more than 40,000 job opportunities in the Kingdom.
Most of those opportunities are in the field of advanced technologies and engineering, as well as its role in generating more than 30,000 indirect jobs and creating hundreds of small and medium businesses.
To achieve all these goals, the company has been keen, since its establishment, to take a package of initiatives aimed at localizing the military industries to enhance the Kingdom’s capabilities and its political roles at the international and regional levels, which in turn requires the rise of the Saudi army’s position in the list of armies worldwide from Where is the gear.
Therefore, the company has taken many initiatives in this regard, the most prominent of which are the following:
In January 2018, a joint venture contract was signed with the French company Thales, with a localization rate of 70 percent.
In March 2018, the company agreed with the American Boeing Company to establish a joint venture to localize more than 55 percent of the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of warplanes, transfer the technology of integrating weapons on those planes, and localize the supply chain for spare parts inside the Kingdom.
The project’s revenues were estimated at $22 billion while providing about 6,000 jobs by 2030. It is noteworthy that this project is the only provider of support services for military aviation platforms in the Kingdom, which supports defense capabilities and enhances deterrence capabilities.
In April 2018, the company signed an agreement with Navantia Naval of Spain to supply five warships with a localization rate of 60 percent and to establish a joint venture that manages and localizes all work related to combat systems on ships.
In January 2019, the company signed an agreement for the manufacture of armored vehicles with CMI, with a localization rate of 50 percent.
In February 2019, it was agreed to establish a Saudi partnership in the field of maritime defense with the French Naval Group.
Defense Industry localization strategy in Saudi Arabia
In fact, despite the importance of all these signed agreements, the most prominent of them is the inauguration of the commercial partnership with the Spanish company Navantia, signed in April 2018, because this partnership would start a joint project on Saudi land for shipbuilding, where the Spanish company will supply warships to the Kingdom.
Under this joint project, it will be the last warship to be delivered by this year, to begin the stage of joint production to start building five ships of the “Avante 2200” type, which represents an opportunity to enhance the position of the integrated systems and advanced technical solutions provided by Navantia in the Saudi market and its sphere of influence.
This will contribute to the goal of localizing the military industry, as indicated by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Company, Ahmed bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, saying: “The establishment of this joint venture with Navantia Company will localize more than 60 percent of the work related to combat ship systems, including their installation and integration.”
Not only that, but this project will contribute to providing more job opportunities, as it will provide about 6,000 direct and indirect jobs for five years, including 1,100 direct jobs, more than 1,800 jobs in the auxiliary industries, and more than 3,000 job opportunities.
This is in addition to the direct contribution to the Kingdom’s GDP of up to 14 billion riyals, by attracting more foreign investments.
This project would also contribute to raising the capabilities of the naval forces to confront threats and maintain the readiness of the Royal Forces fleet.
The joint venture will focus on software management, combat system installation and integration, systems engineering and build, hardware design, hardware design, software development, testing and verification, prototyping and advanced modeling, simulation, and TLS life support service.
The project also provides other services within the scope of the supply, which is integrated logistical support, operation, and maintenance training, and a training center on the ships’ combat management system and the integrated platform management system.
It is worth noting in this regard that the Avanti 2200 is a multi-role vessel specifically designed for maritime surveillance, control, search and rescue, and support to other ships and other tasks. These warships have a tremendous ability to protect strategic assets and gather intelligence as well as anti-submarine and air war terrestrial and electronic.
In the same context, it becomes important to point out one of the most important events that reflected what the Saudi military industry aims to achieve.
This is represented in organizing the Armed Forces Exhibition to Support Local Manufacturing “AFED Exhibition” in its fourth session for 2018, under the slogan “Our Industry is Our Strength”.
The exhibition featured highlighting and supporting local content and the localization of complementary industries, through a partnership with international companies, in addition to recycling financial resources, encouraging Saudization programs, bringing foreign capital to the local market, educating the national community, gaining confidence in the local product, and creating a long-term strategic relationship with the private sector in the field of manufacturing.
During the exhibition, more than 80,000 manufacturing opportunities were presented, and thousands of manufacturing orders were submitted.
Also, on the sidelines of this exhibition, “Aviation Technology” signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ukrainian “Antonov” company and the Saudi Company for Specialized Products (Wahaj) in the field of industrial cooperation for the manufacture of aircraft parts and parts.
Al-Salam Aircraft Manufacturing Company also signed an agreement to manufacture aircraft spare parts, with the National Industrialization Company and a French company.
In conclusion, the step taken by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia within its development vision in the field of localizing 50 percent of the military industries by 2030, represents a major focal point in the process of completing the building of the modern Saudi state capable of dealing with current challenges and entering the future with ambitious visions and multiple capabilities.
The aforementioned step succeeded in attracting the attention of international reports regarding this important step.
We mention in this what was stated in the monthly assessment bulletin issued by the American Center for Strategic and Security Studies “Stratford” in November 2018, in which it was stated: “To protect itself from external influence, and to stay away from any future political pressures, and to avoid dependence on arms imports from Europe and the United States, Riyadh has worked hard to build its defense industrial capabilities, which will enhance its regional and international standing.
Needless to say, what has been achieved so far in this regard represents an important indication of the insistence and determination of the Saudi leadership to make its plan a success in this field, which requires awareness that completing success requires paying more attention to the human element represented in the Saudi citizen.
Which in turn requires that the management of military factories be assigned to specialists and scientifically qualified with competence, experience, and high professionalism in managing all work items and achieving the required harmony between them while ensuring the continuation of training programs to develop the capabilities of workers in this field by organizing high-level training programs in partnership and cooperation With specialized international companies.
This is in addition to working to strengthen the partnership with the Saudi private sector to strengthen cooperation to serve these industries and to invest the energies and capabilities available in private national industries in support and development of existing industries and the introduction of new industries, rather than expanding the field of industries supporting military industries.