Saudi Arabia opened the country’s first World Defense Show outside the capital Riyadh this weekend with 600 exhibitors from 40 countries. 

The expo, established by the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), is expected to attract up to 30,000 visitors from around the world and will showcase cutting-edge military technologies from defense giants such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin from the United States and BAE Systems from the United Kingdom. 

Russian and Chinese defense companies are also represented at the venue. The military exhibition, which is categorized by air, land, sea, security and satellite, is already scheduled to be held every second year in Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi government organizations represented at the World Defense Show include the Defense Ministry, the Saudi Arabian Military Industries, Presidency of State Security and the National Guard. The defense show will highlight investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and include a Start-Up Zone where smaller- and medium-sized international defense businesses will be able to display their newest military technologies. 

Ahmad Al-Ohali, governor of GAMI, stressed the show’s importance for Saudi Arabia.

“The 6th of March will mark an important milestone in the Kingdom’s journey towards localizing 50% of its military expenditure by 2030,” Al-Ohali stated. 

As part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to nurture future indigenous technologies, some 5,000 Saudi students from the local STEM institutions for the Future Talent Program, will attend the exhibition on its final day. 

“We have seen overwhelming global interest for participating at World Defense Show’s first edition and we look forward to providing a conducive environment for networking and cross-border partnerships to drive innovation in the industry,” said Al-Ohali.

Saudi Arabia currently imports the vast majority of its military equipment from U.S. and European defense companies. For instance, the Saudi Air Force’s current inventory consists of Eurofighter Typhoon and American-made F15 and F16 fighter jets. 

However, with America’s waning influence in the Middle East and the looming threat from Iran, Saudi Arabia and other regional key actors are seeking to reduce their dependency on Washington.

Andrew Pearcey, CEO of the World Defense Show, believes that the large defense show is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s growing importance in the global military industry. 

“The level of international demand is unlike anything we have seen before in the industry, and that is testament to Saudi Arabia’s position as a key market for the industry and its vision to support economic growth through developing the defense sector. We look forward to inspiring conversations about the future of defense among visitors, delegations, and exhibitors from over 80 countries,” Pearcey said. 

Pearcey believes that the event will eventually establish itself among the world’s leading defense show venues.

“World Defense Show is envisioned to be one of the world’s best defense and security events, providing a world-class meeting environment with unprecedented networking programs,” Pearcey said. 

The large Saudi military exhibition is also attracting high-profile visitors from the rest of the region. 

Mohamed Ahmed Morsi, an engineer Egypt’s minister of Military Production, is attending the show and will meet with heads of defense companies, as well as with other world leaders while there, the Egyptian Ministry of Defense announced.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are considered allies and are both watching Tehran’s growing malicious influence throughout the region, as is much of the Sunni Arab world and Israel. Iran and Western powers have reported significant progress in the nuclear negotiations and indicated that a nuclear agreement could be signed in the coming days.

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