By ARIE EGOZI
The Gulf states are facing a new reality in their defence relations with the US and some are taking steps to deal with the new situation. The first to take action is Saudi Arabia. It has announced a plan to invest some $20 bn into the production of more homemade weapon systems.
The Saudis according to some reports want to spend at least half of their military budget locally by 2030.
“We will be investing in excess of $10 bn in the military industry in Saudi Arabia over the next decade and equal amounts on research and development,” the governor of the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Ohali, told a defence conference in Abu Dhabi.
He also said the kingdom plans to increase military research and development spending from 0.2 percent to around 4 percent of armaments expenditure by 2030.
The Saudis have reacted fast to Washington’s decision of a temporary freeze on some arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
US President Joe Biden’s new administration had announced it is “reevaluating” decisions made in the Trump era to sell advanced munitions to Saudi Arabia and F-35 fighter aircraft to the UAE.
The Saudi Arabia military industry (SAMI) was established to provide military products and services in Saudi Arabia and to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign purchases of military products.
The company operates across aeronautics; land systems, including military vehicles; weapons and missiles; and defence electronics.
Israeli sources told Raksha Anirveda that the change in the US policy and the will of the Saudis to develop their defence industries opens the door for new cooperation agreements between Saudi Arabia and other countries like China.
In the past, Saudi Arabia has bought defence systems from China, mainly the DF-3A ballistic missiles. The DF-3A (NATO: CSS-2) is a Chinese liquid-fuelled, single-stage, nuclear medium-range ballistic missile that entered service in 1971. In 1988 China sold dozens (reportedly between 36 and 60) DF-3A missiles to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia publicly displayed them for the first time in 2014.
The Saudi announcement also provides an opportunity for the Indian defence industry players who have been on the lookout to tap the global defence exports market.
-The writer is an Israel-based freelance journalist