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Lockheed Martin sees space as the next area of ​​cooperation with Saudi Arabia after defense

RIYADH: US defense firm Lockheed Martin is seeking to deepen its defense ties beyond regular military systems with space technology with Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious space mission under Vision 2030.

The Washington-based company, which has a separate division for space in addition to aerospace, weapons and information security, is the only US company to have sold Saudi Arabia a military satellite for providing secure communications, Joseph Rank, managing director of Lockheed Martin in Saudi Arabia. Arabia and Africa, Arab News said on the sidelines of the World Defense Show in Riyadh.

He said the satellite is critical to military operations, and now Saudi Arabia is looking to procure several other systems, including space-based early warning – a satellite capable of detecting regional threats even before they happen. they are launched.

“Lockheed’s space offerings will meet the needs of the Kingdom as well as other partners in the region,” Rank said, adding that they wanted to be part of the World Defense Show as they saw Saudi Arabia as a strategic partner.

Present with a strong contingent of senior government officials at the show, Lockheed Martin announced that it had reached agreements with the Saudi military regulator for two localization projects as part of the Kingdom’s continued efforts to localize 50% of its military spending. 2030.

Joe Rank

The first project aims to localize the manufacture of missile interceptor launchers, and the second to locally produce the missile interceptor containers, under the THAAD weapon system localization program, the General Authority said. military industries (GAMI) of the Kingdom.

“What’s exciting about this is that it gives the Kingdom the most advanced missile defense system in the world, which will protect it from the increased threats we see in the region and around the world,” Rank said.

He warned that the threats of today and tomorrow will be drones and missiles entering the Kingdom, “so the focus of our efforts is to help them strengthen their defence.”

Rank explained that this is being done with digital counter-missiles, counter-drone systems and a critical command and control system that will be produced primarily in the Kingdom and maintained by the Saudis. It will be “a sovereign and commercial system, not subject to export authorizations”.

The Lockheed Martin executive said the need for Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to defend against threats was driving growth. As the Kingdom is one of the biggest consumers of defense equipment, “it makes sense that they produce their systems locally”.

Rank said they are working with GAMI and Saudi Arabian Military Industries, SAMI, to build capacity and capacity in local industry; however, he admitted the 50% requirement was “tough”, but that’s what they “committed to”.

As well as providing training, spare parts and technical expertise for all the systems they sell in the Kingdom, he said Lockheed Martin is also an official GAMI academy partner.

The academy “will initially start as a vocational and technical school to help teach young Saudis how to handle complex defense and mechanical challenges, and they will teach them how to maintain, repair and eventually design their systems,” Rank added. .

He also said that Lockheed Martin has also launched internship programs at Saudi universities “to create an R&D ecosystem on campuses.”

Joel C. Hicks