RIYADH : Saudi Arabia’s state-owned defence company has forged a deal with Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for a joint venture to build five warships, state media said. The agreement with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) for the design and construction of five Avante 2200 corvettes warships will start this autumn, with the last unit to be delivered by 2022, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The agreement appears part of a framework agreed in April during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Spain for Navantia to provide warships to the Gulf state for around two billion euros ($2.3 billion). A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International had urged Madrid not to go ahead with the deal because the corvettes could be used in Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has long been a major global arms importer – but some countries now refuse to sell weapons over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
But Spain’s loss-making shipbuilder Navantia appears to be banking heavily on the agreement, which has reportedly been under negotiation for years.
SAMI says it aims to become a major player in the global defence industry and localise more than half of the kingdom’s military spending by 2030.