Saudi Arabia in prime position to become global leader in AI regulation, expert says

RIYADH: Building on its successful debut, the World Defense Show returns to Riyadh this February, with over 750 exhibitors from 77 countries set to emphasize future readiness in the sector.

Founded by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries, WDS serves as a global forum for innovation and technological discourse in the defense industry, covering five key domains: air, land, sea, space, and security.  

The second edition is scheduled for Feb. 4-8 and promises to provide a comprehensive international perspective of the defense industry, while analyzing needs at local, regional, and global levels.

It will bring together military players, the Saudi leadership, and industry decision-makers with a key focus on the sector’s future. 

As the Kingdom aims for a robust defense sector, a top priority remains localization, with Saudi Arabia aspiring to localize 50 percent of its defense spending by 2030. 

As the Kingdom aims for a
robust defense sector, a top priority remains localization, with Saudi Arabia aspiring to localize 50 percent of its defense spending by 2030. (SPA)

To align with this objective, the event will feature the “Meet the KSA Government Program,” an initiative connecting international companies with opportunities in the Kingdom’s government and private sector, as emphasized by the WDS CEO, Andrew Pearcey. 

“This program, a highlight since our inaugural show in 2022, offers a direct pathway to understanding and engaging with the Saudi defense industry’s procurement, investment, and partnership processes,” he told Arab News.   

“Collaborating closely with our founder, the General Authority for Military Industries, and our National Strategic Partner, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, World Defense Show serves as a platform for showcasing their latest innovations and technologies. We proudly feature a multitude of Saudi companies, each ready to engage with visitors at their stands,” Pearcey added. 

Space domain 

Under the theme “Equipped for the Future,” this year’s event will put the space domain in the spotlight for the first time.  

Pearcey highlighted the increasing importance of space technology in every nation’s defense strategy and its significance for international collaboration. 

He emphasized that this development has become an integral aspect of every nation’s defense strategy, fostering international discussion and collaboration. 

This year’s WDS introduces a dedicated “Defense Space Arena,” serving as a hub for nations to collaborate and share expertise with leading global space technology companies. 

“At the WDS Defense Space Arena, the world witnesses the culmination of international collaboration as leading space entities converge, exchange knowledge, and foster partnerships. This unique platform showcases cutting-edge space capabilities and technologies, offering a glimpse into the forefront of space advancements,” Pearcey said. 

Collaborating closely with our founder, the General Authority for Military Industries, and our National Strategic Partner, Saudi Arabian Military Industries, World Defense Show serves as a platform for showcasing their latest innovations and technologies. We proudly feature a multitude of Saudi companies, each ready to engage with visitors at their stands.

Andrew Pearcey, WDS CEO

The Space Theatre, running during the visitor open days from Feb. 5-8, will host over 40 global leaders and influencers discussing challenges and potential across various domains. 

The discussions will focus on various aspects of space, including governance, technological development, and interoperability.

Inclusivity, future talent, and cross-disciplinary collaboration will also be highlighted. 

Additionally, this specific domain, sponsored by the Saudi Ministry of Defense, will be accessible throughout the show, providing an interactive introduction to space defense development. 

Both physical and digital space assets from industry and institutions will be exhibited, illustrating the evolution of technology. Additionally, visitors can explore a space station simulation, where digital screens offer information on the role and significance of the domain. 

The Defense Space area will exhibit the Kingdom’s future plans, fostering opportunities for collaborative efforts among nations to harness the potential of space for enhanced national security and success in the space domain. 

SAMI pavilion  

In pursuit of strategic partnerships aligning with Vision 2030 objectives, Saudi Arabian Military Industries is set to participate in WDS 2024.  

As the national strategic partner, SAMI, an affiliate of the Public Investment Fund, will be the largest exhibitor, with a pavilion spanning over 3,000 sq. meters, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency.  

SAMI, an affiliate of the Public Investment Fund, will be the largest exhibitor, with a pavilion spanning over 3,000 square meters. (SPA)

Known for its commitment to innovation, SAMI will showcase its capabilities across diverse domains, including aerospace, land systems, and naval solutions. 

SAMI’s pavilion will showcase its latest advanced products meeting the Kingdom’s needs and envisioning its future aspirations, including a glimpse into aviation and space.  

Senior executives, led by Chairman Ahmed Al-Khateeb and CEO Walid A. Abukhaled, will participate in high-level panels and discussions with government, military, and defense industry leaders.  

These engagements aim to provide insights into the defense sector and address industry challenges.  

The company plans to sign multiple memorandums of understanding and agreements during the event, strengthening its portfolio and making substantial contributions to the Saudi defense sector. 

The primary goal of the event, according to its CEO, is to establish itself as a comprehensive global platform for defense. To achieve this, it will bring together industry players worldwide throughout the supply chain, hosting daily panels and forums for discussion in its three content theaters.

New features 

Aligned with this year’s theme, “Equipped for Tomorrow,” which spotlights the future of defense, the forum will introduce several new features. One highlight is the immersive “Journey to the Future,” led by an animated interactive guide, offering visitors insights into groundbreaking innovations and debuts. 

Additionally, the guide will navigate visitors through the Future of Defense hub, emphasizing investments in new areas, startups, and inventions.  

Pearcey emphasized that this hub provides a platform for individuals with “disruptive ideas” to connect with those possessing the resources and global connections to develop them, underscoring the importance of continuous innovation in the defense industry.  

Furthermore, the hub serves as a showcase for young pioneers. Visitors can also anticipate daily dynamic live displays and a lineup of aircraft, featuring established mission aircraft, fighter jets, and helicopters.

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