Arab countries are focused on growing their domestic military industries out of strategic concerns, according to the accompanying excerpted article from al-Arab. The article’s author attributes the growing focus on localizing military production to “the troubling regional security situation, the expansion of hostile parties seeking to dominate countries suffering from internal fragility, and the need for pivotal Arab countries to play a greater role beyond their borders to confront the colonial dreams of Turkey and Iran.” Establishing a domestic military industry is no simple feat, he cautions, due to the scarcity of local skilled labor, the high fixed
costs of establishing manufacturing facilities, and resistance from “scientifically, technically and industrially advanced countries
and their major companies” who “seek to retain a monopoly on the Arab market,” worth nearly a trillion dollars. However, in
the cost-benefit calculus of many countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, the potential rewards of a domestic military industry
outweigh its costs. So long as there is “political will,” the author of the passage from the prominent Saudi daily al-Riyadh explains,
“industrial, military and defense independence” are within reach.
Among Arab countries, Saudi Arabia is embarking on the most ambitious localization plan. The kingdom’s goal, according
to a development plan launched by Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman, is for 50% of Saudi military
expenditures to be directed toward domestic industries by 2030. An emerging piece in this development plan is the Prince Sultan Defense Studies and Research Center (PSDSARC), a governmental institution “working on applied research and production of technologies such as radars, drones and advanced military communication systems in the hands of young Saudi engineers.” A recent interview with the PSDSARC’s director, published in the Saudi daily al-Jazirah, provides insights into the center’s priorities, which are divided into five domains: radars and advanced-warning sensors; electronic warfare; remotely controlled systems such as self-piloted drones; lasers and thermal cameras; and, military communications and information. Sensitive foreign-manufactured equipment such as radars have a fatal flaw, per the PSDSARC’s director: “We are convinced that we cannot know all the programming details of advanced radars developed outside of the kingdom as well as we can the details of radars developed by Saudi labor; therefore, we are committed to focusing on this sensitive technology.”
The author of the first excerpt, alluding to Turkey and Iran’s growing domestic military industry capabilities, explains how “the widening gap between regional powers with broad experience in [the military industrial] field and the emerging Arab visions” has led some Arab countries to feel their localization efforts are “doomed to failure unless supported by foreign expertise.” Partnerships and licensing agreements with foreign firms are “the first step toward strategic independence and military readiness,” according to the excerpt from al-Riyadh. In the meantime, though, increased nationalism, the widening military-industrial gap with Turkey and Iran, and the exigencies of war along its southern border together seem likely to push Saudi Arabia to accelerate the pursuit of self-reliance in the PSDSARC’s five fields of focus and beyond.
…our path toward ‘industrial, military and defense independence’ is not easy or paved with roses, but it is also not impossible,
provided that the national political will is available…
Source: “(Security and Economic Threats Push Arab Countries into Military Manufacturing Industry),” al-Arab, 31 August 2020. https://tinyurl.com/yygfxwdr
The troubling regional security situation, the expansion of hostile parties seeking to dominate countries suffering from internal fragility, and the need for pivotal Arab countries to play a greater role beyond their borders to confront the colonial dreams of Turkey and Iran, together require maintaining production capabilities in military industries through which to meet the precise needs of militaries. This has prompted the pursuit of self-reliance in the manufacture of ammunition, light weapons and some types of defensive weapons… Major General Mohammed al-Shahwi, an advisor at the Command and Staff College, attributes the reliance on international powers active in the armament industry to the absence of skilled labor in Arab countries that can produce advanced technologies in the fields of defense and armament, requiring developments in the capabilities of military colleges and a focus on technological training that goes beyond traditional military education. In a statement to al-Arab, he stressed that Arab countries will need to proceed in a pyramidal fashion to eventually localize the weapons industry, passing through stages of assembling weapons, equipment and imported parts, and subsequently reaching a stage that combines import and partial assembly, which means gradual industrialization and gradually deepening the proportion of local manufacturing… The local Arab manufacturing of weapons collides with a set of obstacles, according to the study published by the Arab Affairs Magazine, issued by the League of Arab States, entitled “Military Industries in the Arab Region… Reality and Challenges.” Chief among them are the high costs required for military industrialization… [and] the competitiveness problems facing domestic weapons in light of the widening gap between regional powers with broad experience in this field and the emerging Arab visions, which constitutes a frustration for some initial attempts in producing weapons that are seen as doomed to failure unless supported by foreign expertise, related to the importing of weapons and allowing for the production of these weapons locally. Some military experts agree that emerging Arab ambitions are facing resistance from countries and major companies that manufacture weapons and military equipment, and that these scientifically, technically and industrially advanced countries and their major companies seek to retain a monopoly on the Arab market for importing weapons and equipment to avoid losing nearly a trillion dollars, which is the amount of Arab budgets directed toward weapons in the past ten years.
Source: “(Strategic Independence and Military Readiness),” al-Riyadh, 7 September 2020. http://www.alriyadh.com/1840803
In reality, our path toward “industrial, military and defense independence” is not easy or paved with roses, but it is also not impossible, provided that the national political will is available from the hierarchy of top leadership, which is what we rely on today first and foremost thanks to God Almighty…
So that we realize and understand what the Saudi government is doing in terms of securing its national, military and defense security in the short and medium term, including the licensing of 38 national companies with an investment of 9.5 billion riyals and working in the fields of armor plating of military equipment, shelters, simulations and military binoculars, manufacturing spare parts for military equipment, gear boxes, and the repair, maintenance and overhaul of military vehicles and shelters, programming sensors for drones using the latest military technology and other projects…
Among GAMI’s achievements was the signing last December of the first industrial partnership agreement with Raytheon Saudi Arabia, with the aim of localizing the maintenance and renewal of the Patriot air defense system, which contributes to building capabilities in the targeted military industries, taking advantage of existing local capabilities and transferring knowledge related to the concepts of maintenance and preparing the Saudi labor force. This is the first step toward strategic independence and military readiness. May God preserve my nation and strengthen its capabilities.
Source: “(Saudi Arabia Manufactures Passive and ‘Fortress’ Radars, Kingdom ‘SkyGuard’ Drone),” al-Jazirah, 23 September 2020. http://www.al-jazirah.com/2020/20200923/ym67.htm
The Prince Sultan Defense Studies and Research Center (PSDSARC) is considered one of the unique centers in this field, working on applied research and production of technologies such as radars, drones and advanced military communication systems in the hands of young Saudi engineers. Over the past years, the center has many achievements including a “passive radar,” the “national shield” anti-drone system, multi-purpose drones such as the “Skyguard,” the “Dove” and the “Sa’id” UAVs…
Q: What is the center currently working on in its military research and studies?
A: The center is currently conducting research, studies and development of what our armed forces need. We are currently focused on five main research areas, which are the advanced technologies needed by many military systems. They include “radars and advanced-warning sensors” of dangers such as drones and enemy missiles. Our research is focused on meeting the needs of our forces for these high-quality and technical radars in a timely manner. The second field is focused on electronic warfare with modern engineering technology in the field of electromagnetic communications. This specialization requires enormous capabilities in terms of scientists and experts, and we are working on and have made great strides in this field. The third field is remotely controlled systems such as self-piloted drones. The center has for some time been working in this field and has produced advanced drones. We soon look forward to, God willing, bringing them into service. As you know, the world is heading toward intensive drone use in the future and many global military studies confirm that future wars will be focused on aerial capabilities, such as drones. We are focused on developing these systems so our military forces can rely on them, God willing. The fourth field is research and studies on thermal cameras that can film at night and detect thermal targets. We also have a team doing field research on laser technologies with military specifications to direct smart weapons targeting. The fifth field is military communications and information such as command-and-control systems and modern communications systems that work in an encrypted and secure manner to avoid enemy eavesdropping…
Q: Are there products currently being used in the field?
A: Yes, there are many technologies that are currently being used by our armed forces along the southern border, and we consider it a badge of honor and pride for the center to participate with our colleagues in the battlefield through our techniques and achievements…
Q: What are the differences in the drones and radars that are manufactured at home and those that are manufactured abroad?
A: Radars are among the most important systems used by militaries in all countries for the monitoring, defense and detection of hostile targets. Because of these systems’ importance and sensitivity, many countries are keen to develop capabilities to produce them locally or at least be able to supervise their programming and ensure that they work efficiently. At the center we are working on becoming self-sufficient first in the production of these systems and also developing the capacities of Saudi scientists and engineers to understand the precise operation of these systems to support our armed forces, to program and secure the operation of these radars, and ensure they are not disrupted while operating in the field, primarily in defending Saudi borders from any breaches. We are convinced that we cannot know all the programming details of advanced radars developed outside of the kingdom as well as we can the details of radars developed by Saudi labor; therefore, we are committed to focusing on this sensitive technology…