The event, which will take from 6-9 March in Riyadh and become a biennial event thereafter, aims to compete with established rivals such as the Farnborough International Airshow or the Paris Air Show, in attracting major players in the military, security and space industries.

World Defense Show CEO Andrew Pearcey told Arab News: “There are defense shows around the world, and Saudi Arabia thought it was time to bring one of those shows here. Firms around the world want to come and understand the market, and understand how to do business here.”

Saudi Arabia’s defense budget is SR171 billion ($46 billion) this year, a 10% decrease from the 2021, but a figure that still puts it in the top ten military spenders in the world.

However, World Defense Show is also integral to showcasing the Kingdom’s fast growing domestic defense manufacturing sector to international buyers.

The event is run by the Kingdom’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI), which regulates the Kingdom’s defense firms, and is tasked with localizing half of the nation’s military spending in line with Vision 2030 plans to diversify the economy. 

The decrease in spending is seen as evidence that GAMI is making progress on its target to create an indigenous defense industry. 

Among the blue chip companies attending will be Brazilian aerospace and defence group Embraer, US giants Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin, China’s NORINCO, and UK manufacturer Rolls Royce.

In total, the event, which will take place in a purpose built 800,000 sqm venue in Riyadh, will host 800 firms from around the world

Pearcey points out that around 125 companies will be local Saudi businesses who will take up around 27,000 sqm of the giant venue.

He said: “Part of the rationale for doing the show here is that we showcase all of the up and coming new companies so that international firms can see what Saudis are capable of.

Along with hosting big players from the US, Russia, China, and India, the event will also include tech firms that have recently been spun out of universities and are working on cutting edge defense and aerospace technologies.

Pearcey added: “We want to represent the entire supply chain ecosystem. Small companies supply the medium companies, and medium companies supply the large companies.

“We're expecting to see orders from the big players, but we're also expecting the exciting announcements from the smaller players as well.”

Work began organizing the show two years ago, and is set to generate revenue as a standalone event.

The event will create SR700 million of economic activity by 2030 and will support 4,800 Saudi-based jobs, according to a report by professional services firm EY.

Pearcey added that on this first show his team is currently 120 people, but will swell to between 3,000 and 4,000 staff when the event opens its doors, adding that between 50 percent and 60 percent of its supply chain will be Saudi-based.

The conference will mark International’s Women Day on 8 March, with a series of “women in defense events,” including discussions about potential careers in defense and aerospace manufacturing which will include Saudi female guest speakers in the industry.

It will also host a youth day that will invite young engineers to the conference.

The event site also holds a runway for airplanes, areas where vehicles can be demonstrated, as well as a command and control center.

Pearcy said: “The command and control center will show all the different forces are working together. The show itself covers land, air, sea satellite space. The center is the epitome of how all of those different things work together.

“And it makes us a unique show. Nobody else can do the live displays like we're going to do.”

The day before the conference begins Riyadh will host a defense forum, with major industry figures coming together to discuss key topics. It will be followed by an airplane salute over the city.

Pearcey said: “We're expecting 60 to 80 military aircraft to fly over the city of Riyadh and really create a big spectacle for the public to see.”

The organizers of the Kingdom’s inaugural World Defense Show plan to make plenty of noise, in the capital, and across the industry.

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