No longer trusting US, Saudis to invest billions in own arms industry

Saudis apparently react to Biden administration freezing arms deals signed with former President Trump

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Saudi Arabia will invest more than $20 billion to establish its own domestic military industry in an apparent move to reduce its dependence on the United States which recently announced it was freezing certain arms sales to the Kingdom, Reuters reported over the weekend.

Following the Biden administration’s suspension earlier this month of two large arms deals worth some $760 million for precision munitions that were signed during the Trump era, the Saudis announced a 10-year investment plan aimed at developing a local arms industry with the target of spending half of the defense budget locally by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s defense budget for 2020 was $48.5 billion, most of it spent purchasing arms and munitions from the United States, but Biden objects to the Saudi-led coalition continuing its intervention in the Yemen civil war against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

On Sunday, the Saudis announced state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) signed a deal with American defense Lockheed Martin to form a joint venture to boost the Kingdom’s military capabilities.

“The joint venture is aimed at developing localization capabilities through the transfer of technology and knowledge and training of Saudi nationals to manufacture products and provide services to the Kingdom’s armed forces,” SAMI said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin makes major weapons systems, including the F-16 fighter jet, F-35 stealth bomber, helicopters, offensive missiles and missile-defense systems.

Lockheed Martin’s vice president Timothy Cahill said the deal marked a “major milestone” for the U.S. company.

“This agreement is in line with Lockheed Martin’s strategy to expand its partnership with the Kingdom by providing reliable defense and security solutions,” Cahill said in the statement reported by Reuters.

Saudi Arabia is looking to improve its ability to defend against missile and drone attacks both from the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Iran-backed militias in Iraq that have recently increased their attacks and appear to be emboldened by the Biden administration’s decision to re-evaluate its relations with the Saudis.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates signed a memorandum of understanding to “transfer technology and know-how and to build an integrated base for defense industries in the Gulf,” Asharq Al-Awsat reported.