Defense industry ties between Turkey and the Gulf states are bracing

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The Saudi Arabian defense firm, SAMI, is making its inaugural appearance at an international arms exhibition in Istanbul this year. This move signifies a strengthening bond between Turkey and Gulf countries in the defense industry, following a diplomatic visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Photo credit: EDR Magazine

Occupying a significant portion of the Saudi Arabian pavilion, SAMI’s presence is notable. Other participants from the kingdom included the General Authority of Military Industries (GAMI), Intra technologies, and the upcoming World Defense Show. Additionally, firms from the United Arab Emirates, known for their regular appearances at this exhibition, unveiled new capabilities typically reserved for their own defense expos. This indicates Abu Dhabi is considering Ankara as a potential market. 

Erdogan set the stage

According to Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at the U.S.-based geopolitical consultancy Gulf State Analytics, President Erdogan’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE has set the stage for future collaborations between these nations and Turkey. He highlights the role of SAMI, GAMI, and UAE defense entities in these efforts, which are being strategically tailored for specific needs. 

Turkey, for the first time, will be participating in the Saudi-based World Defense show, with 29 exhibiting firms, as announced by Mansour Al-Babtain, WDS chief KSA liaison officer. At the Istanbul defense exposition, SAMI unveiled the first Saudi-made Hazem combat management system, incorporated into the Saudi Avante 2200-class corvettes. 

Photo credit: DefSec

Calidus missile launcher

Meanwhile, the UAE firm Calidus, in alliance with the nation’s Tawazun Council, showcased a mobile missile launcher. The vehicle, named Alheda, equipped with the launcher, is a lightweight wheeled device capable of firing four Alheda missiles and eight LOGIR missiles. It features a remote firing mode and is expected to enter the testing phase in three months. 

Karasik noted that the UAE’s Calidus revealing an armored vehicle equipped with ground-to-ground and ground-to-air missiles speaks volumes about the evolving relationship between Turkey and the UAE. He also commented on the Saudi entities’ exploration into drones and cryptography, indicating unique growth and regional security enhancements. 

Signed MoU

On the third day of the exhibition, the UAE’s Black Cobra Military Supplies company and the Turkish company OSTIM signed a memorandum of understanding. This agreement aims to explore growth opportunities, primarily in research and development, as well as technological collaboration. 

However, the blossoming ties between the Gulf nations and Turkey may also bring about competition, especially given the reported discord between Saudi Arabian and Emirate leadership. 

Karasik suggests that the real question lies in the business competition between these three nations in meeting the specific defense needs of KSA and UAE. He also raised the point of the actual implementation and uses of these systems, which remain to be seen.

“All three nations are increasingly delving into African affairs, indicating a potential rise in security-related contracts in the future. The involvement of sovereign wealth funds from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in these defense sectors amplifies the seriousness of Turkish collaboration and investment in Ankara,” articulated Karasik. 

Photo credit: Victor Besa / The National.

As part of Vision 2030, both the KSA and UAE are focusing on localizing defense production. This involves seeking technology transfers and forming joint ventures with companies to enhance their expertise and technology within the sector. Turkish firms are expected to align with this initiative, and some have already demonstrated their preparedness. 

Ozgur Guleryuz, a high-ranking official at Turkey’s STM defense firm, confirmed that his company is prepared to collaborate with Gulf countries. He further assured that STM is willing to transfer its technology to these countries, following their local needs.


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