Saudi Arabia’s S-400 talks progress, but questions remain
March 2, 2024
S-400 Triumf launchers. Photo source: Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Saudi Arabia’s S-400 talks progress, but questions remain

In an interview with Kommersant, Russia’s Presidential Aide for Military-Technical Cooperation (MTC) said that negotiations with Saudi Arabia for the sale of Almaz-Antey S-400 air defence systems are progressing, but Riyadh’s near-term outlook for transfer-of-technology (ToT) has complicated the matter.

“With Saudi Arabia, negotiations were difficult, but the documents were signed, their parameters are known. I can not say that everything is smooth in our country … [Saudi Arabia] insists on a sudden breakthrough, implying both supplies and technology transfer,” said Presidential Aide Vladimir Kozhin.

Kozhin acknowledged that in Riyadh’s case, Moscow was willing to extend ToT for the S-400 (though it is unclear what this could entail), but Moscow prefers moving gradually, to reduce risk and complications.

“First, the supply of finished weapons, mastering and understanding it, familiarizing our specialists with the capabilities of the opposite side. This is a complex chain, so we tell the partners that we should not hurry,” said Kozhin.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly aiming to localize the sustainment/support of the S-400 through Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI), a state-owned industry established in May 2017 with the aim of spearheading the country’s defence industry growth as part of Riyadh’s Vision 2030.

Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia aims to localize 50% of its defence procurement. Thus far, the contracts ostensibly supporting this goal involve co-production and commercial offsets. However, Saudi Arabia has also begun partnerships, namely with Ukraine through the latter’s An-132D transport aircraft platform.

Negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Russia for the S-400 began in October following a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) that could see the sale – with local manufacturing – of TOS-1A multiple rocket launch systems, AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher and Kornet-EM anti-tank guided-missiles.

Kozhin confirmed that negotiations regarding ToT of Russian small-arms for manufacturing in Saudi Arabia are also ongoing. Like the S-400, Kozhin hopes that these contracts will be inked in the “very near future.”