By : Taha Sakr
Despite the reduction in its military spending during the recent period; In response to the economic conditions imposed by the Corona pandemic, Saudi Arabia jumped to fourth place regionally, and 17th globally in terms of military strength, in a move that reflects its interest in consolidating its military presence even in difficult times.
The Saudi army tops the list of Gulf armies in terms of strength, and it has jumped, according to the latest reports of the American “Global Fire Power” portal, which specializes in military affairs, to the fourth rank among the armies of the Middle East (Egypt, Turkey and Iran), and 17 globally.
The Global Firepower classification depends on 50 factors to determine the “power index” for each army, and the arrangement does not depend only on the total number of weapons or forces in any country, but focuses on a number of factors, ranging from military and financial strength to logistical capacity and geography.
These new factors allow small countries, which are more technologically advanced, to compete with the larger and less developed countries.
An investment in strength
It was noticeable that, during the past ten years, the Kingdom has been moving towards investing heavily in its defense power; it was the world’s largest importer of defense equipment in 2014, particularly from the United States and UK.
Since 2015, arms exports to the Kingdom have increased significantly. Saudi Arabia tops the list of arms importers in the region, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and the United States tops the list of arms exporters to the Kingdom with sales exceeding $ 43 billion, between 2015 and 2017.
These sales included equipment, military weapons, helicopters, warships and Abraham’s tanks, as well as warplanes. Saudi Arabia also signed a deal with the United States to supply various quantities of missile defense systems and related equipment.
The size of Saudi military spending this year amounted to 67 billion and 600 million dollars, topping the list of the Gulf armies, and Saudi Arabia ranks among the 3 countries that spend most on its armies in 2019, along with the United States and China.
According to the new report, Saudi Arabia has 879 aircraft in its air force; Including 270 fighters, 82 attack aircraft, 283 helicopters, 34 attack helicopters, 208 training aircraft, 49 transport aircraft and 13 special mission aircraft.
In the ground forces possesses 1062 tanks, and 12,825 armored vehicles, which made them surpass the armored forces on the global military forces such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, and regional ones such as Iran, Turkey and “Israel”.
It also has 705 self-propelled artillery, 1818 clouds artillery, 122 missile display devices, and 1,423 armored personnel carriers. Its navy also includes 55 warships, 3 frigates, 5 corvettes, 10 guard boats and 4 mine warships, but it does not possess any submarines or aircraft carriers.
In terms of fighters, the Saudi army currently includes 478 thousand active soldiers (out of 803 thousand are the total force), compared to 252 thousand in 2017. It also has about 325 thousand reserve soldiers.
Total Saudi armed forces personnel mean military personnel in service, and paramilitary forces that include training, organization, equipment, and surveillance, who can be called in to support regular military forces when needed.
Future plans and local manufacturing
The Kingdom has established a program to resettle military industries within the Vision 2030; to reduce military spending, by resettling over 50% of the vital sector by 2030.
In May 2017, it also announced the establishment of the Saudi Military Industries Company, then the General Authority for Military Industries, which aims to regulate the military industries sector in the Kingdom, develop it and monitor its performance.
Saudi Arabia began producing armored four-wheel-drive military vehicles, in accordance with international standards, and called it (Dahna).
According to a monitoring conducted by “Gulf Online”, the number of companies working in the field of military industries reached 38 local companies until 2019, and their investments amounted to 9.5 billion riyals (2.5 billion dollars).
These companies work on armoring various military equipment, shelters, suspects, and military binoculars, manufacturing spare parts for all military equipment and gearboxes, repair, maintenance and overhaul work (maintenance) for vehicles and military shelters, and programming sensor for drones using the latest specialized military software and other equipment projects.
This company includes many different sectors in manufacturing, as found on its website. Most notably the air systems, whose work involves research, development, manufacture, design, support, operations, maintenance, repair, longevity, and modernization.
The Weapons and Missiles Unit of the Saudi Military Industries Company aims to build capabilities in the Kingdom to manufacture high-quality defensive munitions and weapons systems, especially in light of the war in which the Kingdom is living.
The Saudi Military Industries Company also works to build local capabilities for research in the field of advanced ground systems, manufacture, production, assembly, testing and maintenance of ground systems, manufacture of tactical vehicles (wheels or trackers), heavy combat vehicles (wheels or trackers), armored personnel carriers, and light patrol vehicles , Artillery systems, protection systems, and a driverless land vehicle.
That company uses international companies to develop its business. In March 2018, it signed an agreement with the American “Boeing” to establish a joint project aiming to localize more than 55% of maintenance, repair and overhaul of fixed-wing warplanes and helicopters in the Kingdom, transfer of the technology of integrating weapons on those aircraft, and localization of the supply chain for spare parts inside the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has 600 qualified factories in the field of military industries, according to previous assurances by Major General Atiyah al-Maliki, Director General of the General Department to Support Local Manufacturing in the Kingdom.
The percentage of achievement from local manufacturing reached 96% of what was planned in the past year, after manufacturing about 350 million pieces in Saudi Arabia, similar to international specifications, and aircraft parts were started.
In March 2016, the kingdom opened a military missile factory, and another for military communications systems (southeast of the capital, Riyadh), at a cost of about $ 240 million, to produce artillery and mortar shells, as well as heavy shells and aircraft bombs, whose weight ranges between 500 and 2,000 pounds.
In December 2016, it opened the Military Communications Systems Factory, which produces about 2000 devices annually belonging to five types of “programmatic” communication devices.
In 2017, the General Authority for Military Industries launched a program for the localization and construction of programmed radio technology, with the aim of building and developing national capabilities in the areas of innovation and manufacture of safe military communications systems.
Through a programmatic radio technology, a set of projects will be implemented through which the roles of end users, national research centers, universities and the national industry sector are coordinated and activated.