The Gulf states made some attempts to develop their defense industries as early as the 1960s, but these efforts did not begin in earnest until the early 2000s. At that point, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar allocated the necessary resources, and some plans were put in place in order to get rid of the near-total dependence on foreign arms and military supplies, which was close to 99% until late 2006.
This strong impulse had causes as follows:
Significant, capable and trusted people led the development of the defense industry. And while the governments in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Doha aggressively seek private and foreign investment, funding has been provided to develop new weapons with foreign partners. A number of companies specialized in defense affairs were formed, and conglomerates were established to merge and simplify commercial operations, and everything related to means of cooperation and partnerships with abroad.
In 2014, the United Arab Emirates launched the Emirates Defense Industries Company “EDIC” with eleven subsidiary companies that later grew to sixteen, and it includes both defense services and the manufacture of firearms, ammunition and some aviation parts. And in 2019, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed announced the formation of a larger and more comprehensive government-owned defense and technology conglomerate, “EDGE”, which included “EDIC”.. 25 subsidiaries have been merged, employing more than 12,000 people.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia inaugurated its own state-owned holding company, the Saudi Company for Military Industries (SAMI), and within two years, it had signed more than 25 agreements with foreign partners to obtain alternative technologies that would allow Saudi Arabia to have plans to develop military industrial products. . Three months after that company was founded, the Saudi cabinet created the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) which is, according to its homepage, the “regulator, enabler and licenser” of the kingdom’s military industry tasked with building the domestic defense sector.
The State of Qatar was not late in catching up with its two neighbors in entering the defense industries with bold steps. In March 2018, it announced the establishment of the “Barzan” Holding Company, which is a company specialized in the fields of defense and security to enhance the military capabilities of the Qatari Armed Forces. Since its inception, this company has held many Among the agreements and partnerships with several foreign companies concerned with defense and security affairs, the most prominent of which was the Turkish defense giant “ASELSAN”, the German “Rheinmetall” company, and the French “Nexter”, in addition to a cooperation program with the United States to help it develop an air surveillance plane.
The most prominent goals of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its defense industries are to expand the base of local military industries, work to provide a network of services and technical support, stimulate direct investment and strategic partnerships with international companies in the sector, in addition to transferring technologies and knowledge in industry, services, research and development, and qualifying human cadres capable of Work in specialized industries. The Kingdom has developed a future vision for its defense industries through which it can localize more than 50% of government spending on military equipment and services by 2030, while the United Arab Emirates aims, through its practical program in this field, to develop local defense industries from 10% to 30%. By 2030.
At the Global Defense Exhibition held in Riyadh in March 2022, the Kingdom signed several strategic agreements. The Saudi Military Industries Company operates within several lines of effort, most notably aviation and space systems, ground systems, advanced military electronics systems and defense systems. Among the most prominent agreements signed is the partnership with the American company “Boeing” for the manufacture of aircraft, security and space systems. The Kingdom is also working to diversify partnerships and military cooperation with many countries and international companies, in order to strengthen and enable the independence of political and security decision-making.
For the United Arab Emirates, the development of the local defense industry has brought profits and success stories, the most prominent of which was the production of multi-purpose armored carriers operating on all terrains, and the growth of the UAE defense electronics industry in terms of production and development as a result of partnership with major foreign companies. During the past period, the UAE has made advanced stages in the defense industry, which made it one of the international competitors in this field, and it has become one of the leading countries in organizing and participating in major defense exhibitions, due to its high-quality national products in the military field, such as drones, Missiles, combat vehicles, rifles, pistols and machine guns are 100% homemade.
The Gulf countries need reliable partners in order to build an advanced and competitive defense industry, and there are many wonderful opportunities for some of the leading countries and companies in defense industries and military technology. It is not limited to Western countries and companies, but these golden opportunities are available to China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey and Egypt. The future of the Gulf military industries is undoubtedly a promising future and has many strengths, the most prominent of which are the enormous material capabilities, strong will, solid leadership and a clear vision for the future of this sector, which can contain expertise, capabilities and important and ambitious projects in the manufacturing and development of many ground combat systems. air and sea, as well as missile defense systems, ballistic missiles, unmanned aircraft, command and control systems and electronic warfare.
It will not be long until the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, become major international competitors in the export of military industries. Investment and partnership with these countries in the field of military industries and their development brings many opportunities and gains expected, and a very limited percentage of risks and challenges.
Source: Colonel of the general staff M. Zafer Murad - researcher in international relations, conflicts and geopolitics