OPINION: Saudi defense industry is a national priority

Our region must work on a strategy for the efficient transfer of military technology and the creation of policies to foster relations

Samar Fatany

Published: Updated:

The Sultanate of Oman’s decision to join the Saudi-led anti- terrorism coalition is a welcome development and a major boost to the 40-nation Islamic Military Alliance created on Dec. 15, 2015 to enhance regional security. ISIS, Al-Qaeda and affiliates continue to take advantage of the fragile political and security climate across the region to gain more influence and territorial control. Major General Mansour Al-Turki, an Interior Ministry spokesperson, recently told reporters that more than 2,000 Saudis are currently fighting in the ranks of terrorists abroad and that over 70 percent of them are stationed in Syria. The report is an alarming reminder of the urgent need for military preparedness to combat the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia and abroad.

Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, stated that Saudi Vision 2030 includes plans to boost the military industry and to raise the level of security services within the Saudi army. He stated that the Kingdom would be restructuring many military deals to be linked to Saudi manufacturing.

He also added, that the Kingdom is in the process of establishing a holding company for military industries. He said, “It will be later in the Saudi market, also for ‘transparency’, so a citizen can know the military deals, the company’s performance, sales, deals and industries very clearly.” Developing a strong Saudi defense industry is a national priority.

Foreign military assistance

In line with the new vision and the alarming threat of terrorism, seeking military cooperation with major industrial powers is critical to prevent dangerous situations. The drive for self-dependency and the setting up of our own parameters of defense is a step in the right direction. It is time we build our own defense mechanisms. For years, we have been entirely dependent on foreign military assistance and that has weakened our status in the global community and has allowed many to take advantage of our vulnerability. The new vision opens doors for us to import and develop our own indigenous technology to suit our needs and environment.

The official visit of the high-level delegation of the Italian frigate Nave Carabiniere on Dec. 28 to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry presented an opportunity for our business community to view state-of-the-art naval ships and products. The commanding officer Francesco Pagnotta explained that the purpose of the visit was to foster cooperation and to demonstrate the newest and most advanced navy projects that are not only for military purposes but also for civilian tasks that include providing power and water supply, humanitarian assistance, hospital services and logistic support with medical care capacity.

Members of the delegation included ship building business leaders who offered services to provide technology transfer of the latest naval ships and electronic warfare and defense equipment. They shared their expertise in surveillance and cyber intelligence systems with the aim of deterring the threat of terrorists or other illegal activities.

Our region must work on a strategy for the efficient transfer of military technology and the creation of policies to foster relations to build partners and not remain recipients in the evolution of technology. If we do not develop our military mechanism and spend wisely on defense, we will be easy prey for warmongers and terrorist organizations.

Saudi Arabia and the Islamic military alliance have an important task ahead not only to train their armed forces, but also to develop a stronger military industry with advanced weapons to defend Muslim territories. The Middle East can no longer afford to be at the mercy of the superpowers that control the sales of arms and exercise their hegemony over our region.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on December 31, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”