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Lockheed's jobs plan as part of 2030 vision

Posted 16 October 2018 · Add Comment

As Saudi Arabia targets an aerospace and defence manufacturing revolution, Lockheed Martin looks to play its part. Beth Stevenson reports

Saudi Arabia has long been a key importer of advanced aircraft and weapon systems from western nations, such as the USA and the UK.
Now, however, it is now aiming to rely less on its oil resources while, at the same time, bolstering its defence and aerospace industries. Thus, it is targeting localisation of manufacture via its ‘vision 2030’ initiative.
Despite being the third largest military spender worldwide, currently only 2% of that spend is localised in Saudi. There are now plans to increase this to 50% by 2030, moving from low-tier spare part and ammunition provision to the manufacturing of entire aircraft.
One company that has experience in working with Saudi industry and is looking to help play a part in vision 2030 is Lockheed Martin.
The company formed a joint venture (JV) with Taqnia Aeronautics – the rotary aircraft manufacturing Saudi Arabia JV – in May 2017 during US President Donal Trump’s inaugural visit to the kingdom, through which Saudi localises the manufacture of the Black Hawk rotorcraft.
It also has an agreement with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) that covers the local manufacture of aerostats and vessels.
Lockheed is aiming to create jobs for thousands of Saudis through these ventures as it adheres to the requirements of vision 2030.
Rick Edwards, executive vice-president of Lockheed Martin International, claims that localising 50% of the work by 2030 is an ambitious aim, but the company is willing to work with the domestic industrial base to hit this target.
“We have a large number of contracts that were announced between the king and president Trump on his visit,” said Edwards. “We are collaborating with SAMI [to determine] as to what each one of those will look like because each one will be different.
“For a programme like terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) – an air defence system – there is not much content that can be released outside of the US, so that puts more pressure on other projects to have a higher percentage. But, overall, we are committed to supporting that growth – the 50% – and this is a very ambitious programme.”
In April 2018, Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, visited Lockheed’s Silicon Valley facility to see where the THAAD system for Riyadh is being manufactured, as well as two communications satellites – one for Arabsat and one for the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology.
Edwards used the satellite programmes as examples of where Saudi engineers are involved, demonstrating the capability that is already in country and which could be leveraged further into the aerospace and defence system manufacture domains.
“We’ve had a good a good experience with them on the Arabsat satellite programme, where we have certified Saudi Lockheed test engineers,” he added. “It is a capability that very few countries in the world have, to do the pre-life, pre-test launch profiling on satellites. That’s been a great experience for us and for those Saudi engineers, and I think it’s indicative of the fact that there’s a very talented workforce available within the kingdom.”
Edwards noted that Lockheed’s relationship with Turkey is an example of a technology and skill transfer that is a success, which has included Turkish industry learning to test, assemble and build parts of the F-16 fighter, as well as develop missiles.
“All of that has evolved over the past 30 years and, if you look, Turkey has capability across the spectrum. That is what the [Saudi] kingdom wants. They want to be able to, in the future, design, build and sell products on the international market stage.”
He reiterated that while some programmes will not allow for 50% of localisation due to export laws, Lockheed will aim to balance it to this level by providing more in-country content for other programmes where this is possible.
“We’ve had a relationship in the kingdom for 50 years and we do work with some of the offset companies right now,” Edwards said. “They have been successful with collaborations, but the Saudi content is going to grow incrementally. By 2030, whether or not that will be 50%, only time will tell, but I think there is a path to get pretty close to it.”
 

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