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RIYADH: The recent transformation in Saudi Arabia’s defense procurement systems has been  welcomed by UK firm BAE Systems, as it provides them with clarity on what is valuable to the Kingdom.

Simon Barnes, managing director of BAE Systems Saudi Arabia, said localization of capability is at the absolute heart of their strategy in Saudi Arabia and they are partnering with the Kingdom’s national defense company and the industry’s regulator to ensure that they continue the journey they started 55 years ago.

As one of the largest defense contractors in Europe and ranked seventh in the world based on revenue, BAE Systems is present across the Kingdom and delivers key products and services to the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Naval Force, and other Saudi industries.

“All of our programs have got localization at the core, and we are very proud of the capability we have transferred so far over a number of years, and we want to do more of that looking to the future,” Barnes told Arab News on the sidelines of the World Defense Show in Riyadh.

He split up BAE’s localization ambitions into three main pillars: investing in their Saudi national workforce and capability; investing in local businesses and industry; and transferring capability that has lasted and can be expanded across the Kingdom into new projects and opportunities.

BAE Systems currently employs over 7,000 people in the Kingdom and 75 percent are Saudi nationals.

“We are very proud of the fact that we have one of the first graduate programs here in Saudi Arabia, and we have the first Saudi national modern apprenticeship program,” Barnes said.

He added that they are working very seriously in training the next generation of Saudi engineers and technicians, and asides from their own programs, they also have university collaborations.

“We are training people to be able to support, maintain, and then ultimately engineer systems here in Saudi, that is the core of what we are doing at the moment in terms of training.”

One major milestone is the Hawk aircraft, which has been assembled, tested, and delivered in the Kingdom by a Saudi national workforce, and the training and technology transfer around it have been a key investment for BAE.

During the defense expo, the first of its kind in the Kingdom, BAE Systems Saudi Arabia has signed agreements with International Systems Engineering and Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence to develop cybersecurity alongside other areas of defense.

Besides signing strategic partnerships with the Saudi Arabian Military Industries and the General Authority for Military Industries, the company also inked a deal with Saudi Maintenance and Supply Chain Management Company to transfer technology in the area of maritime services.

SMSCMC, one of BAE’s portfolio companies of which they are part owner and has a hub in the UK, also held extensive discussions on training and development to further achieve the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Alongside other partnerships, Barnes said that BAE Systems has been working closely with regulator GAMI and its newly established training academy as one of their key partners, adding: “That allows us to focus collectively with GAMI in areas they would like us to invest in and gives us a road map.”

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