Saudi agrees joint venture with French firm to boost navy
Saudi Arabia's state arms producer and a French government-majority firm signed an agreement on 17 February 2019 on a joint venture to boost the kingdom's navy, amid calls to halt weapons sales to Riyadh over its role in Yemen.
The memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and France's Naval Group is aimed at providing the oil-rich Gulf state's navy with ‘state-of-the-art systems’, a statement said.
‘Through design, construction, and maintenance activities, the joint venture will contribute significantly to further enhancing the capabilities and readiness of our Royal Saudi Naval Forces,’ SAMI boss Andreas Schwer said.
A spokeswoman for Naval Group - which is owned by the French state and French multinational giant Thales - refused to give any more details.
French lawmakers and rights groups have repeatedly called on France's government to suspend all arms deals to Riyadh because of the war in Yemen, where some 10,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.
Riyadh is battling on the side of the internationally recognised government against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels, in a conflict that has seen all sides accused of potential war crimes.
The US House of Representatives this week voted overwhelmingly to end American involvement in Saudi Arabia's war effort in neighbouring Yemen, dealing a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his alliance with the kingdom.
France, one of the world's biggest arms exporters, has sold equipment to Riyadh and fellow coalition member the UAE - notably Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles.
OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has been one of the world's top arms buyers for the past several years.
But in 2017, the kingdom's Public Investment Fund set up SAMI to manufacture arms locally with the fund expecting it to become one of the world's top 25 defence companies by 2030.
Naval Group - which was previously called DCNS - has been embroiled in a long-running graft scandal over the 2002 sale of two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia for $1.2 billion. The submarine maker is alleged to have paid more than €114 million ($128 million) in kickbacks to a shell company linked to a close associate of ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak.
A French investigation launched in 2010 has already led to four French executives involved in the deal being charged. They all deny wrongdoing.
More from Naval Warfare
While outfitting activities on the first two Hisar-class OPVs have been advancing at Istanbul Naval Shipyard, discussions for additional platforms continue.
The commissioning of SAS King Shaka Zulu, a Multi-Mission Inshore Patrol Vessel, into the South African Navy masks serious problems for the service as fleet availability falls dangerously low and capability atrophies.
Babcock has won contracts worth more than £120 million to support the development and delivery of the Dreadnought-class submarines for the UK’s Royal Navy.
With funding from the European Defence Fund and partner countries, the European Patrol Corvette programme has an opportunity to become the standard bearer for defence procurement and potentially offer a route forward for naval shipbuilding in Europe.
Portugal contracts Damen for multi-purpose vessel designed for integrated uncrewed air and sea systems
The new ship’s primary roles will be search and rescue, emergency relief and oceanic research but will also be used for naval support operations and maritime safety.
Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile was developed in the early 2000s and delivered to the Norwegian Armed Forces from 2011 to 2015. The new missile will be a collaborative project between Norway and Germany and has been planned to be deployed on both countries' naval vessels.