BEIRUT — Saudi and Chinese industry have joined forces to design and build military drones in the kingdom.

Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co. signed an agreement with China Electronics Technology Group Corp., with the two companies announcing their tie-up during the World Defense Show in Riyadh, which took place March 6-9.

The joint venture, named Aerial Solutions, will see CETC establish a research and development center and create a team that would manufacture different types of UAV systems. These are to include communications, flight-control, camera, radar and wireless-detection systems.

CETC specializes in manufacturing security electronic information systems, including electronics equipment, communication devices and software.

The new venture will also focus on developing electric-powered vertical-takeoff-and-landing drones, anti-drone solutions, analytics, helicopter products and radar systems.

Aerial Solutions aims to protect infrastructure and localize technological innovation through scientific research, manufacturing and training national engineers, according to a company statement.

ACES said on Twitter that the move is in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative, which aims to grow local industry.

This is not the first time China and Saudi Arabia signed a contract allowing the kingdom to procure Chinese unmanned aerial systems. In 2017, Saudi Arabia ordered Chinese-made Wing Loong II drones. Chinese news agency Xinhua described the deal as the country’s largest-ever arms export.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. also previously signed a partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology to build a manufacturing facility in Saudi Arabia for the CH drone class.

CETC took part in the World Defense Show this year — the expo’s inaugural launch. Other Chinese companies at the show included China North Industries Group Corp. Limited (NORINCO), China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC), Star Vision, and China Aerospace Long March International Trading Co. (ALIT).

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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