NAVDEX 2019: Saudi Arabia’s SAMI unveiled agreement with Naval Group and JV with Navantia

Luca Peruzzi

Present at IDEX/NAVDEX 2019 exhibition with a large pavilion, the Saudi Arabian Military Industries Company (SAMI) have respectively entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with French Naval Group to create a joint venture company in Saudi Arabia’s naval defence domain and unveiled the SAMI Navantia Naval Industries (SANNI) join-venture (JV) with Spanish Navantia group for combat systems’ development and production.

Signed on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi exhibition between SAMI’s CEO Andreas Schwer and Hervé Guillou, Chairman and CEO of Naval Group, the MoA sets out the framework for the establishment of a joint venture that will further strengthen the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts focused on localising essential industrial skills and capabilities, said the SAMI statement.

“Our joint venture agreement with Naval Group laid the foundation of a strategic partnership that will reinforce SAMI’s commitment to helping Saudi Arabia develop self-sufficient defence capabilities. The collaboration offers us an excellent opportunity to leverage Naval Group’s strong track-record of helping its partners develop sovereign defence capabilities to create an integrated military industries ecosystem in the Kingdom”, said Dr. Andreas Schwer, CEO of SAMI.

The joint venture company will be at the helm of naval programmes for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and will support its existing and future requirements for state-of-the-art systems, including full life-cycle support of these systems. The agreement includes building surface vessels, including frigates, corvettes and related items in Saudi Arabia through a new joint-venture with the French firm where SAMI will hold the majority, the CEO of SAMI told reporters.

“The two companies plan to manufacture warships, frigates, and submarines in Saudi Arabia”, said SAMI’s Chief Executive Andreas Schwer, being reported by Reuters.

The joint-venture establishment is the first step towards the signing of a contract reported as early as later this year for the acquisition of vessels that will be built in country. No indications have been provided on which vessel types will be provided, but on the SAMI stand a model of the Gowind corvette has been displayed while a model of the new Belh@rra frigate was shown together with the corvette one on the Naval Group stand.

“Through design, construction, and maintenance activities, the joint venture will contribute significantly to further enhancing the capabilities and readiness of our Royal Saudi Naval Forces”, SAMI CEO added.

On the following day, SAMI unveiled the SAMI Navantia Naval Industries (SANNI) joint venture with Spanish Navantia group at the presence of SAMI CEO. “The new JV is the result of the contract (preceded by an agreement) signed by SAMI and Navantia for the joint supply of five corvettes to the Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF). The new company, which majority is detained by SAMI, is responsible for the combat management system (CMS), fire control and other combat system equipment for the new corvettes”, said SANNI CEO, Antonio Barbera. However, he added, “the aim of the venture is not only the Saudi Arabian market with the potential upgrading of in-service vessels as well as new shipbuilding, but also the Middle East and other allied countries’ naval services”.

In addition to the combat system components, the new SANNI JV has also proposed to Saudi Navy other naval platforms. SANNI CEO Antonio Barbera mentioned a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) design to enhance the RSNF amphibious capabilities, which are currently based on few landing craft.

Looking to the positioning of the future joint-venture between SAMI and Naval Group and the SAMI Navantia Naval Industries (SANNI) between the SAMI and Spanish Navantia shipbuilding group, during the IDEX show, SAMI representatives told reporters there is space for both joint-ventures in the future development of Saudi Arabian Navy, Coast Guard and other institutional users. However, speaking about SANNI, the later will be focusing on system integration while the future joint-venture with Naval Group is more centered on shipbuilding.

Building on the longstanding partnership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Naval Group as well as the corvette program with Navantia and the new SAMI JV with the Spanish group, the two activities are to play a key role in helping achieve the objectives of the Kingdom Vision 2030 by maximizing local content and creating highly skilled jobs for Saudis.

Saudi Arabia was present at IDEX with a large pavilion that saw a number of military and national companies and institutions specialised in military industries. The pavilion encompassed more than 13 local firms and institutions such as Saudi Arabian Military Industries, Military Industries Corporation, Advanced Electronics Company, Altadrea Manufacturing Co, Saudi Leather Industries Company, and Saudi Defence Electronics Company (SADEC).