Saudi Arabia in research drive to boost defence capabilities

King Salman approves setting up of an independent authority for R&D

Saudi soldiers are seen on top of their tank deployed at the Saudi-Yemeni border, in Saudi Arabia's southwestern Jizan province. AFP
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Saudi Arabia will form an independent entity to carry out research and development in the fields of technology and defence systems, the kingdom announced on Tuesday.

The Cabinet, headed by King Salman, approved the creation of the General Authority for Defence Development, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The authority, which enjoys financial and administrative independence, will be linked to King Salman.

Washington had strengthened its military presence in the region after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure in September 2019, sending three advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries to the kingdom.

The US had also sent thousands of soldiers and two batteries for the Patriot missile system and the THAAD thermal high-altitude air defence system.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin directed the US Army Central Command to withdraw the equipment, starting from the summer, as it seeks to ease tension with Iran.

Mr Austin had spoken over the phone with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also and the Minister of Defence, in June, where he emphasised the "US commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people".

The Pentagon described Riyadh as an important “pillar in the regional security architecture” and renewed US commitment “to [Saudi Arabia's] self-defence".

Updated: September 15, 2021, 12:20 PM