Saudi Arabian Military Industries (Sami) has signed a preliminary agreement with US giant Boeing to form a kingdom-focused joint venture as the country seeks to develop its nascent defence manufacturing industry by localising production.
Under the agreement, the parties will form a company to provide services including maintenance, repair and overhaul for military rotary platforms currently operating in the kingdom, Sami said in a statement on Sunday.
"This joint venture will help to enable more defence manufacturing to take place in Saudi Arabia, ensuring more jobs and prosperity in the kingdom," said Ahmed Al Khateeb, chairman of Sami.
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, created Sami in 2017 to help reduce the kingdom’s reliance on foreign arms procurement.
As part of the country’s Vision 2030 plan for economic diversification, Sami is mandated to ensure more than half of the kingdom’s total military budget is spent locally by the next decade.
"The maintenance of the rotary fleets operated in the kingdom by the different forces represents a major opportunity for localisation and development of new sustainable skills," said Walid Abukhaled, Sami's chief executive.
"Much of this work is currently outsourced to the US or Europe, while aircraft numbers in the kingdom are expected to double in the next 10 years.
"We also see this joint venture as a first step towards a broader strategic partnership between Boeing and Sami that will encompass additional platforms and services in the future."
The companies intend to sign the definitive agreement in the coming weeks, after the initial pact was signed at the inaugural World Defence Show in Riyadh last month.
“This agreement ... is an excellent example of our alignment with the kingdom’s Vision 2030," said Torbjorn Sjogren, vice president of Boeing's International Government and Defence organisation.