BEIRUT — In the first program of its kind in Saudi Arabia, a local organization is teaming with American firm Lockheed Martin to produce parts for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

During the World Defense Show in Riyadh, which took place March 6-9, the General Authority for Military Industries, or GAMI, announced it approved two local projects for the THAAD air defense system: the first for manufacturing missile interceptor launchers, and the second for producing the missile interceptor canisters.

In October 2017, the U.S. State Department approved a foreign military sale to Saudi Arabia for THAAD and related support, equipment and services for an estimated cost of $15 billion. About a year later, in November 2018, the kingdom signed a letter of offer and acceptance with the United States for Lockheed’s THAAD.

The projects are part of Saudi Arabia’s effort to domestically spend 50% of its money set aside for defense equipment and services by the year 2030, according to a statement by GAMI.

“Along this localization journey, and with the robust relations with our international defense partners, air domain defense readiness is expected to be greatly enhanced,” said Gasem Al-Maimani, GAMI’s deputy governor, said in a statement.

“Lockheed Martin is engaged with its Saudi partners across several capacity-building programs that are formulated to contribute to the realization of the country’s development goals. This announcement will significantly boost global and regional security while supporting job creation and economic prosperity in Saudi Arabia,” said Joseph Rank, chief executive for Lockheed Martin in Saudi Arabia and Africa.

During the inaugural World Defense Show, GAMI said, it signed 22 industrial partnerships with domestic and international defense companies, for a total value of 29.7 billion riyals (U.S. $7.9 billion). The agreements included the direct purchase of military systems, the building of production lines, the transfer of know-how and training, and the localization of technologies and services. Saudi companies are involved in 46% of the total value of deals made during the show.

Neither Lockheed Martin nor GAMI responded to Defense News’ inquiries for further information.

Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.

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