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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Saudi Arabia's defence firm signs JV with Spain's Navantia to make warships 

JV to create 6,000 direct and indirect jobs for five years in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia's state-owned defence company signed an agreement with Spain's Navantia for a joint venture to build warships in the kingdom as one of the world's biggest arms buyers tries to localise its military needs.

Saudi Arabian Military Industries and Navantia agreed to design and build five Avante 2200 Corvettes in a programme that would begin this autumn and deliver the last unit by 2022, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday. The JV will create 6,000 jobs, including 1,100 direct jobs, over five years.

"This joint venture with Navantia will localise more than 60 per cent of ships combat systems works," Ahmed Al Khateeb, chairman of SAMI, said. "We will continue to explore collaborations and leverage partnerships."

Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, created SAMI last year to help decrease the country's reliance on foreign arms purchases, diversify the economy away from oil and create jobs for Saudis. This comes under the Vision 2030 plan for economic and social transformation. SAMI's mandate is to localise more than half of the kingdom’s total military spending, from about 2 per cent currently. Saudi, which ranks among the top five spenders on defence and security, has earmarked $56bn for military spending this year, the biggest item on its budget.

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"The joint venture between SAMI and Navantia is an opportunity to develop capabilities in the country and jointly explore future opportunities," Esteban Garcia Vilasanchez, chairman of Navantia, said.

The JV will feature training opportunities for Saudi engineers in the kingdom, part of the plan to boost the participation of young Saudi nationals in the industry.

SAMI’s targets include contributing around 14 billion riyals ($3.7 bn) to the kingdom’s gross domestic product and creating more than 40,000 direct jobs locally by 2030.

Sami is mandated to manufacture defence products and provide maintenance services across units, including air and land systems, weapons and missiles, and defence electronics.