This marks Turkey's largest defense contract to date.
Saudi Arabia has entered into an agreement with the Turkish defense company Baykar for the localisation of drone production, as reported by Sarbaz.kz citing the press service of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI).
SAMI is a defense company established by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund in May 2017.
During the July visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase Baykar Akinci drones. As stated by Haluk Bayraktar, the director of Baykar, in an interview, this represents Turkey's largest defense contract to date.
This is not the first defense agreement among Persian Gulf nations to be conducted without the involvement of the USA. In recent years, there has been a clear trend towards procuring defense products from sources other than the United States.
This shift can be attributed to the emergence of new players in the market offering competitive goods, a tendency towards investing in domestic defense industries, and global tensions. Furthermore, the shift has been prompted by stringent US government control over defense companies, with arms exports becoming a political instrument.
Despite this apparent shift towards other entities, the USA still holds sway in the structure of arms imports. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), from 2018 to 2022, Saudi Arabia accounted for 19% of US arms exports, Qatar for 6.7%, Kuwait for 4.8%, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for 4.4%.
In December of the previous year, the Spanish shipbuilding company Navantia signed a memorandum for the construction of multipurpose military vessels for the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. The French have also entered the market, signing agreements to collaborate with local Saudi companies on the construction of frigates and corvettes. The French naval group is already building Gowind corvettes for the UAE Naval Forces, a deal that was signed in 2019.
Meanwhile, South Korea's growing export prowess is solidifying its presence in the region. In March 2022, Saudi Arabia inked a deal worth around $1 billion with South Korea for the purchase of weapons and systems, including the M-SAM air defense system. The acquisition of air defense systems from South Korea was prompted by the withdrawal of Patriot systems from Saudi Arabia by the USA, leaving Saudi Arabian airspace vulnerable to drone attacks by Houthi rebels from Yemen.
M-SAM was also acquired by the UAE as part of a deal announced a year prior.
In an interview with Breaking Defense, several officials from Persian Gulf nations highlighted South Korea's readiness to share technology as a key to success in capturing the market, particularly against the backdrop of nations' inclination towards localising defense industry production.