Another boost for Saudi military as arms manufacturer unveiled

Another boost for Saudi military as arms manufacturer unveiled
Saudi Arabia will set up a local arms company it hopes will contribute to the kingdom's economy and reduce the need for military spending.
3 min read
18 May, 2017
Saudi Arabia's military is rapidly expanding [Getty]
Saudi Arabia is set to establish a state-run arms manufacturing company, which will produce armoured vehicles, radars and ammunition for the kingdom's burgeoning military.

Riyadh said that Saudi Arabian Military Industries will employ tens of thousands Saudi nationals and should limit the need for expensive arms imports.

It is also hoped the company will contribute $3.7 billion annually to the economy, and will be part of the kingdom's Saudi Vision 2030 diversification plans.

"The company will seek to be a key catalyst ... to localise 50 percent of total government military spending in the Kingdom by the year 2030," said Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

"It will lead the military industries sector to increase local content, increase exports and bring foreign investment to the kingdom by entering into joint ventures with major international military industry companies."

Local industry

Currently, only two percent of the kingdom's military spending goes to local manufacturers making Saudi Arabia the world's biggest arms importer, according to Reuters.

Bin Salman hopes the new company will provide 40,000 skilled positions for Saudis and a further 30,000 indirect jobs, along with a much needed boost for local businesses.

It comes as the Washington Post reported that the US is set to unveil a mammoth arms deal with Saudi Arabia, with Riyadh ready to spend as much as $350 billion over ten years on American weaponry.

Saudi Arabia has massively upped military spending in recent years, in part due to the perceived threat from Iran with US manufacturers only too willing to supply.

Riyadh is also leading an Arab military coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen, with rocket attacks on its southern border a frequent occurence.

Riyadh has looked for regional cooperation on joint security and set up an Islamic military alliance, which Iran is noticably not a part of.

Riyadh is also set to establish an "Arab NATO", according to the Washington Post, which would see the US and Saudi Arabia take lead roles on regional security.

Regional pact

The joint security pact is being agreed by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and bin Salman, and will be unveiled during Donald Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia later this month.

Its key aim is to fight terrorism and push back against Iran's growing influence in the region, the US daily reported.

"We all have the same enemy and we all want the same thing," an official told the Washington Post. "What this trip hopefully will do is just change the environment."

Saudi Arabia was said to be quietly overjoyed with the election of Trump as president due to his harsher rhetoric against Riyadh's arch-regional rival, Iran.

Relations between Riyadh and Washington soured during Barack Obama's tenure as president, due to the US' reprochement with Iran through a nuclear deal.

Saudi Arabia believed this ignored Iran's expansionism in the region. Tehran is said to be arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen, providing huge military support to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and playing a key role in the "militiaisation" of Iraq.